I should have done my homework. I should have known better. These days, whenever I embark upon a venture, I Google it thoroughly, particularly all the chatter surrounding the subject.
It was only after I got trouble with Fasthosts, the website platform providers, that I began to read all the horror stories.
Take a look at their site
Enticing isn't it? They describe themselves as "The UK's Number One Web Host"
The site if full of advice about how to set up an account and to be fair it is all useful stuff. Except for one teeny little piece of essential information, and that is how to cancel your account. Once you log in to your Fasthosts account you can do many things, but one thing you cannot do is cancel your account. There is even no instruction on how to do this except for something buried in the "Terms of Service" and is in 8pt type. All accounts with Fasthosts are subject to a minimum 12 month contract term. This is in the very very small print in the same small corner of their web site.
This is my story in a nutshell: In February 2008 I entered and agreement with Fasthosts to host a website. This was to last a year. I have had regular invoices from them since, but no confirmation that these were to stop, even though I instructed the cancellation of the site package some months ago. I also emailed them twice. This is not an easy thing to do. If you do not include the precise information in the precise order, it is simply bounced back. Finally I go an acknowledgement of my email, an automated one. I have sent them two reminders about this email and all have been ignored. Essentially, they have taking payment from my account despite my efforts to close it. And it seems I am not alone. I suggest you google "Fasthost Hell" or just Fasthosts.
So you say, just ring your bank and ask them to stop payment. Not as easy as that, apparently. My bank say that they cannot stop payment and that they have to take it up with Fasthosts once I have provided them with documentary evidence. Until then, Fasthosts will continue to steal money from my acount and there is nothing I can do.
This is the point in the story where I have to put my hands up and say that it is possible that the fault is mine. It seems that my emails to them were replied to, but my spam filter took them out. I telephoned Fasthosts and spoke to (within two minutes) a very cooperative employee, who appears to have sorted the problem out. We tested the theory by his sending test emails, and lo and behold they did not appear in my main email account, though they did in my webmail.
It looks as if I won't get a refund, but at least they have agreed to close the account.
I have decided to leave this post up, as a matter of honesty, but also because I still believe Fasthosts should make it easier (e.g.online) for customers to cancel accounts when it is contractually possible to do so.
On the other hand, I got first class customer service from their operative, Mark, and he deserves five stars for doing more than he was obliged to do.