0

I would like to start with saying that I have completely no experience in any kind of law. That said I would like to specify that I am not searching for a legal advice, but instead I am just curious to hear your thoughts on this matter. Thank you in advance!

Now back to the main topic, which I will start with a brief introduction just so you can get familiar with my case. The backstory of my current situation is that back in 2016 when I was choosing between different web hosting providers I found one, which was offering (and I quote) "Free Domain For Life" if you sign up for their most expensive shared hosting plan, which at that time was priced at roughly $13.00 per month.

I never had any problems or complaints with the company, even in times when they would slightly rise their prices. Therefore, even dough now I am paying roughly $21.00 per month I am still using the same shared web hosting plan, which I signed up for in 2016.

During the years, I have never paid a single penny for my domain name, which was renewed for free on yearly basis by the company until two weeks when I noticed a strange invoice from them. After opening it, I saw that I need to pay $12.00 dollars for my domain name if I want to renew it for another year.

I was deeply consufed and thought it is some sort of a technical error. That is why I immediatelly decided to contact their sale team, but they responded that they had cancled this practice a few months back and according to their terms and services, the company has the right to change their conditions of the services they offer. In order for the employee to end on a more positive note, he started explaining improvements and features added that I was getting for free.

I am curios to see what a more experience person than me thinks about this case and if he or she share their thought on the following quesitons I would be really grateful.

1) Do you think that this can be considered as false advertisement?

2) Due to the fact that I live in Europe and the company is based in the US, would that make it more complicate it for me to search for my legal rights?

3) If I actually decide to search for my legal rights, go through the whole process and end up winning, what compensation possibly I could get from it?

4) In this case, what kind of a laywer would represent my case the best? Should I contact a lawyer in my home country or search for one who practice law in the state of the company?

PS: I would like to end this topic by saying that I am not planning to sue the company. I am just curious to hear your opinions about who is right and who is wrong. I am happy with the quality of services that I am getting in exchange for my money and I do not mind paying $12.00 per year for a domain. Last but not least, I would like to thank in advance everyone who decides to join this discussion and I look forward to hearing what you think about it.

Yours faithfully, George

1

It depends which law applies

Contract law

A contract is interpreted under someone’s law. For a competent internet company the contract will usually specify which law applies, if not, the court must decide where the contract was entered into - this may be where you are or where they are.

While clauses allowing unilateral changes are legal, the power must be used either reasonably or in good faith depending on which law applies. It is certainly arguable that imposing a charge on something for which there was a promise that there would never be a charge is not reasonable and almost certainly not in good faith.

Consumer protection law

Most country’s consumer protection laws cannot be excluded by contract and apply based on where the consumer is, as well as where the business is. So, if the service is offered in the UK and a UK consumer buys it, then UK consumer protection law applies irrespective of the nationality of the business.

Almost all such laws prohibit deceptive and misleading conduct - offering something for “free” when bundled with something else and then reneging is clearly that.

There is usually a statutory body responsible for dealing with complaints so you might get you issue resolved without needing to go to a court.

Try doing a little research in your country.

| improve this answer | |
0

...and according to their terms and services, the company has the right to change their conditions of the services they offer.

You signed a legally binding contract when you first bought hosting services that included the "lifetime domain"service; and part of that legally binding contract was the clause that says the company can change their terms and services at any point, with the stipulation that you agree to all changes. They changed their terms and services; that's what you agreed they could do.

You have little recourse, i.e. you agreed to the terms and services and the monetary amount is hardly enough to take legal action over; any lawyer will laugh you out of their office.

1) No

2) It's remotely possible a consumer advocacy group could help.

3) Impossible to say.

3) We don't give legal advice here.

| improve this answer | |
  • But part of the old terms was "Free Domain For Life". Even if they change their terms now, they are in violation of their old contract. You cannot have a contract which allows one party to retroactively change the terms; that would cease to be a contract. And you can have false advertisement even if the "real" terms are buried in a contract. And, in some states, you can recover attorney fees if you win a consumer protection lawsuit, which might make a lawyer at least consider taking the case. – D M Nov 23 '19 at 17:36
0

Many statements made in commerce might be considered to be "false advertising", but not all will be found to be legally false advertising. False advertising is a statutory creation, so you would have to look at the laws against false advertising, in your jurisdiction or in the advertiser's jurisdiction. In the US, there are federal laws that govern this question, but the statutes are not terribly clear as to what constituted false advertising. Instead, there is a regulatory agency (the Federal Trade Commission) that has authority to establish rules and make decisions. It would be false advertising if (1) the FTC rules that it is and (2) in case either party dislikes the outcome and sues, that determination is upheld in court. It is possible (but more complex) to sue in US courts overseas.

Since the terms of the contract apparently are clear that they can modify this offer, you have little hope of winning a breach of contract lawsuit (hire a lawyer to get a more detailed analysis, resulting from them studying the contract). The essence of your claim would apparently be that the lead-in label "Free Domain for Life" is big bold print is unconscionably attractive, the the point that a reasonable person would interpret the contract wording ("this offer can be modified" or something like that) can't mean that they can start charging for domain renewal.

I do not think that FTC practice supports such a conclusion, but there's only one way to find out -- file a complaint and see whether they take action against the company. The best preliminary step is to determine for yourself whether your claim has basic merit, by reading the relevant federal statutes and corresponding regulations. Since we're not giving actual legal advice, this is an educational exercise. As a preliminary, you may want to know that US statutory law is encoded in the US Code, and regulations authorized in the US Code are in the Code of Federal Regulations. Both are freely available online.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.