Beware of the elephant

I had been a happy and satisfied customer of Easyspace for nearly five years, since registering my domain with them back in August 2000 and having them host my website. They weren't perfect, and they were a little more expensive than a lot of the competition, but in general they were very good.

I've had reason to contact their customer service department a few times over the years: to add new MIME types to my web site, to enquire about download speeds, to sort out a temporary problem with retrieving my email. Each time I received a prompt and technically competent reply to my question, usually by the end of the next working day.

In September 2004, Easyspace were acquired by another company called iomart. Sadly this appears to have marked the beginning of the end of a popular and reputable company.

By complete chance I recently met an ex-employee of Easyspace at a wedding. He told me that the take-over had pretty much destroyed the company and that the new owners didn't seem to care about their customers. He strongly advised me to leave Easyspace and move elsewhere, not least of which because they were about to start charging to transfer a domain away to another registrar.

I thought about this but ultimately decided that I hadn't had any problems with them, so I thought I'd stay put. I should have listened.

Towards the end of January, the volume of spam messages I was receiving suddenly jumped from a few hundred per day to several thousand -- probably in excess of 5,000 each day. I would have to download my email before I left for work each morning, as my 20Mb mailbox would completely fill up overnight. During the day I would have to purge the messages to stop it filling up again. If I went on holiday, I'd lose all my email for the entire time I was away. That's not acceptable so I tried to do something about it.

My first port of call was the Easyspace control panel, to increase my mailbox size to 50Mb. That wouldn't have got me through a holiday, but would at least store a complete day's worth of email. But Easyspace have completely replaced their control panel since being taken over, and the option to increase the mailbox size (which should have cost me an additional £5 for the year) is no longer there.

Instead I was offered a completely new email package at a cost of £19. That's more than I was prepared to pay, so I opened up a support issue to ask how I should go about paying them the additional money for the larger mailbox. This was on the 26th January.

I also noticed later that day that the spam wasn't actually being sent to email addresses I was using, but to random-looking addresses (such as a-sticking123@adamdawes.com). They were all being collected by my mailbox's catch-all feature. But could I switch it off? I could not, as this option has also been removed from the control panel. I opened a second support issue to ask how to turn this feature off.

Patiently I awaited answers to these questions. After a week of continuing to lose email I decided that perhaps the ex-Easyspace employee I'd met was right, it was time to get rid of Easyspace and move to another registrar -- one who could actually be bothered to help customers who are having problems.

So I set up hosting with Pair after they were recommended to me by a friend. They looked (and still do look) competent and I asked quite a few questions to their tech-support about how to transfer my domain (never having performed a domain transfer before). Most of the answers came back within an hour.

But Easyspace had a final sting in the tail. They did indeed have a charge to move the domain away from them -- £49.99 + VAT. As you can probably imagine, I wasn't too pleased to have to pay this! But I gave them the money anyway, figuring it was worth it to get my domain out of their clutches.

I closed the first of my Easyspace support issues at this point too (upgrading my mailbox) but thought I'd leave the catch-all question open to see if/when I got a reply.

Perhaps the most frustrating news of all was to find that I actually didn't need to have paid the transfer fee to Easyspace. I was under the impression that my domain was locked against transfers and that this fee was to remove the lock. In actual fact there was no such lock, and the transfer would have succeeded without my paying them. Unsurprisingly they took the money anyway, it appeared on my credit card a few days later. I feel that this is pretty much tantamount to theft actually; they misled me into paying them for something that didn't exist.

So I've just had to put that one down as a learning experience. I now know a lot more about domain transfers than I did before, and am a little less naïve about dealing with domain registration companies. Good riddance to bad rubbish and all that -- I'll never go near Easyspace (or iomart) again as long as I live.

If you're considering registering or transferring a domain to Easyspace then please take my advice and find another company. There are so many of them out there that there's simply no need for anyone to touch Easyspace. If you already have a domain registered with Easyspace, give some hard thought to whether you really want to stay with them. If you have a problem with your account, you may be waiting so long for help that you end up cursing them.

Oh -- and my other support issue? It was finally addressed on the 8th February, 13 days after I raised it. They explained how to switch off the catch-all. Sadly their explanation didn't work however, it just guided me down the path I'd already followed which tried to sell me a different email package for £19. Thanks for nothing, Easyspace.

If you would like to discuss Easyspace or read about the experiences others have had since the company was taken over by iomart, take a look at this thread on the Web Hosting Talk web site. You'll find that I'm far from the only one suffering the incompetence of this bunch of clowns.


Response from Easyspace

October, 2006

I was recently contacted by Easyspace's customer support team regarding the experiences I had with the company last year. It's a shame I couldn't have had this contact at the time, perhaps things would have ended up differently. The following is the response that Easyspace have made to my above article:

Easyspace went through a difficult period when it introduced Easypost in 2002-3 as well as with the systems upgrade and migration following change of ownership in 2004. In both cases the result was a dramatically higher level of requests for support. Unfortunately when it is most urgent for customers to get support because of major issues, there are never enough support personnel available to fix the problem and answer the customer as swiftly as we would like - a sort of catch 22. Indeed it multiplies as customers make more requests if only to ask for an answer to an earlier one.

Things have settled down now and over 80% of tickets raised to support are now answered within 5 hours: also introduced are telephone support and online chat, so we are much more accessible as well as more efficient.

I regret that I did not get a chance to help you with your issues at the time. In fact we have an anti-virus system, separate from the SpamShield anti spam and anti virus on individual Easypost accounts. It will filter spam from all email accounts on a domain at the same time for a single price and before the spam hits the mailbox.

I appreciate your point on the cost of transfer out. It was introduced because of abuse by some who acquired free services only to move on leaving Easyspace having paid nothing for the other services on which the offer had been predicated, a difficult one commercially. The charge for release is now �15: such a charge is applied by many other registrars while others apply other draconian steps to make transfer out difficult.

We are now working hard to be more responsive, with many more opportunities for customers to give us feedback on what we are doing and to suggest improvements they would like to see. It is hard to push through the changes fast enough in some cases. Still the important thing is for us to understand what is wanted and to provide it as soon and as efficiently as we can so any ideas are welcome directly at http://www.easyspace.com/feedback.php or through http://easyblog.blogware.com/blog.