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Stu (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 09:14

Voicestick apparently has decided to follow in the foot steps of Broadvoice, Verizon, and several other carriers and interpret their ?sole discretion? clause to permit them to retroactively reinterpret a contract clause and then boot you and apparently threaten you for engaging in actions which were arguably allowed and certainly tolerated.

Like many other individuals, I used Voicestick with my own equipment to increase my flexibility. I was on a ?next to nothing plan,? and while I was not a large user, I did use them. Moreover, I planned on increasing the usage once I determined that their foreign termination issue was fixed and that they were accurately computing the length of calls. I pack a UK mobile UAE mobile. Voicestick had some better rates to both than most carriers. More importantly, I believed that Voicestick actually was going to stay with these numbers, (e.g. it wasn?t a case of a carrier misclassifying a mobile call as a call to a landline).

I discovered that my account was blocked today. I went to DSL Reports to see if I was alone and discovered that Voicestick had decided that Asterisks usage was a criminal violation of their terms and conditions and pulled someone else?s account without notice.

The following is the message that another Asterisks user received:

"Our Fraud and Security dept. has voided your account as they have detected
equipment not authorized by us attached to the network using service in a
manner not intended or purchased.

Your account has been forwarded to accounting and legal for possible
recourse.

i2telecom"

I suspect I am in the same boat though I have not received the message.

There is nothing in i2telcom.com?s contract which prohibits BYOD devices. Reading their terms and conditions, I presume that this is the provision that they will try and twist to fit this situation:

"7. LOST, STOLEN, ALTERED OR BROKEN EQUIPMENT. End User shall not modify the Equipment in any way, including but not limited to: opening the housing, probing ports, extracting internal software, conducting any reverse engineering activities, or altering the electronic serial number, equipment identifier, or MAC address of the device. End User shall not use the Equipment except with the Services provided hereunder. End User is responsible for all lost, stolen, damaged or broken Equipment and shall pay i2telecom for any such lost, stolen, damaged or broken Equipment an amount equal to the fair retail price of the Equipment minus any payments End User had previously paid specifically for said Equipment. End User shall immediately notify i2telecom of any lost or stolen Equipment and shall cooperate with i2telecom in all reasonable aspects to eliminate actual or potential unauthorized use of the Equipment. At i2telecom's sole option, failure to report lost or stolen equipment in a timely manner will cause End User to be responsible for all service fees accrued until the time that i2telecom is informed of the loss or theft and can affect a termination of the Services."

Clearly this provision is designed to deal with the folks who try to unlock Voicestick equipment to use with other carriers. Hardware is often subsidized on the theory that the customer will then use the equipment on a service where the carrier makes money. Using a BYOD ATA, softphone, or even Asterisks box doesn?t violate this.

My problem, however, is that the ?sole discretion? clause in a contract should not allow a carrier to retroactively redefine provisions so that ?left? means ?right? and ?up? means ?down? and then argue you are stuck with it. Jurists for century have still said that there is an issue of good faith attached to contract interpretation. Another well established principle of contract construction is that ambiguities in contracts are construed against the person who drafted the contract. They had the ability to protect themselves in the first place.

Voicestick has known that people have being BYOD to their system for months. They never once posted an objection and it is clear they monitor the forums. Further, nothing in their FAQs said you could not use BYOD and their settings were publicly available. (I think they may have been on my control panel, but I cannot access the panel to see this).

Any argument that Asterisks is per se evidence of commercial usage is uninformed:

? All you need is a copy of the trixbox.iso and a scrap PC to activate this service;

? The former name for Trixbox was ?Asterisks at Home.? As the software evolved, it became clear that businesses could use this version as well and the name was changed;

? Any reader, however, of nerdvittles.com knows that many of use Asterisks at home. They have developed a free version of Asterisks that runs on a flash drive on any available Windows XP box in the background;

? Further, there are several hosted Asterisks solutions which give away home accounts (easypabx.com or pbxes.com). Even the pay hosted accounts are typically 10 dollars or euros a month ? certainly a home budget item.

? Communigate, one of the more respected commercial PBX services, just started GIVING away their PBX software for residential use (e.g. five or less users).

Several months ago, a VP from Voicestick approached this group and wished to speak openly. I?d love to hear what they have to say here and why people aren?t at least being offered a ?safe harbor,? (e.g. disconnect your Asterisks by the end of the week or we will terminate you).

I understand that many carriers apparently don?t like Asterisks because clients can ?cherry pick? the good and jettison the bad of a carrier. It also means that the carrier no longer competes on features, just rates which makes things rough in a market which is already slicing things tight to the bone.

Voicestick is developing a good reputation. I recognize that as you go back and look at the numbers and the usage, you need to adjust things, but changing the rules retroactively feels like a cheat. If you are going to tell me in the next hand of poker that a pair of deuces win, I can live with it. If you tell it to me after I?ve laid a royal straight flush on the table about this rule, I will understandably have problems.

It seems to me that you build good will by being candid rather than engaging in the position of trying to claim that something has always been one way when it hasn?t and retroactively calling people in breach of contracts. In most breach of contract situations (where there is not a time is of the essence provisions) the law requires notice of the breach and opportunity to cure it. It is also a horrendous business practice to call someone a crook and a cheat for doing something which was previously tolerated.

What I think that Voicestick should do is reinstate everyone for ten days with written notice that Voicestick has modified its policy (or if you prefer ?strictly enforce a previous? policy on BOYD) devices and that the customer either has to adapt a different unit or go off line. Better yet, adopt a BYOD/PAYG plan that requires a certain amount of outgoing calls a month, or charges a modest monthly fee for the DID but allows Asterisks and other IPBX software.

Calling a person a ?crook? and a ?cheat? for using their own equipment, paying their bill, and not trying run a calling card service based on your unlimited plans or something like that will rub everyone the wrong way. Is Voicestick honestly contend that a Mac User using a softphone is cheat for using that program rather than coping with the problems of emulation just to place a phone call?
=========
Correction. After posting this, I learned that Voicestick has a Mac Client. The OS, however, really doesn't change the issue. A person wanting to use Voicestick from a PDA or a wifi phone would run into the same problem As a matter of fact, people wanting to use a VOIP provider with a Nokia E series phone are best running their device through pbxes.com because it has developed a routine that provides for better NAT transversal than most.


=========

While have not received a disconnect notice yet, if the notice I have seen matches what you plan to send, I would strongly suggest a rewrite. Even people who would have pressed the issue will get their dander up when they see this. Modern business certainly recognizes that the customer is not always right, but calling the customer names and threatening legal action is not the way to go. Even when you can not meet a putative customer?s needs, you should never treat them like you don?t care about them and are dirt. You should always make the customer feel like you have some empathy and tried even if you cannot come to terms. It is just good business.

Voicestick was just one of many tools in my toolkit. Losing the benefit of it, will not ruin my day. At the same time, I have a real problem with the way this entire issue was handled.

Stu

   
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andy (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 10:16

Very eloquent, Stu, and I'll be interested to hear their reply.

I wonder if people are still experiencing the incorrect charging of call length, and whether this is due to problems with their systems detecting hang-up signals on calls, or errors in their databases and how that call info is fed to the companies billing department - probably the former.

Members of this forum have signed up with the company, and some have used a call forwarding facility. Does the equipment at a destination number, like for instance a mobile phone, have to be vetted by Voicestick? What if a different provider is also used to enable callback via the Voicestick number, and unknown to the customer, this company uses Asterisk or similar? Is the customer legally beholden to Voicestick for use of that other company's equipment of which he or she probably has no technical or other knowledge, or any duty to learn?

It's totally fair for companies to detect dodgy callshops and other shady operations trying to abuse their services, and one company told me that fraud is rife in telecoms, but to accuse individuals of abuse of very moderate usage like this seems rather petty.
   
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Stu (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 10:42

Here is a link to a post on Voxilla where Voicestick shared the settings with a customer so that he could configure his own device:


Voicestick
   
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Bossman (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 11:49

AFAIK, this is an issue if the caller hits voice mail, and is still happening (It may happen in other situations I am not aware of though). What I have done is make sure the number I forward to does not have VM activated. If VM cannot be deactivated, then I probably will not use voicestick. On last trip I was able to use them because I had the option to deactivate VM on the sims that I forwarded to. Their global forwarding service is the only thing I use.

Quote:
Originally Posted by andy
I wonder if people are still experiencing the incorrect charging of call length, and whether this is due to problems with their systems detecting hang-up signals on calls, or errors in their databases and how that call info is fed to the companies billing department - probably the former.


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dg7feq (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 12:26

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu
Here is a link to a post on Voxilla where Voicestick shared the settings with a customer so that he could configure his own device:


Voicestick
I asked the support for the SIP account data some months ago and they told me that they dont support other devices but the data is written on voxilla.com

Thats why i never suspected i cant use any other software or hardware as long as i create $$$ with my calls.


Chris


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Bruce_Nicklin (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 13:16

Hi Group, Stu was nice enough to send me an email to mention his post. He is very right in many repects, BUT we had some things going on over here that got down right ugly!

Here is my reply to Stu. If any one has a comment let me know.


Bruce VP i2telecom (VoiceStick)

=========================================

Hey Stu

I am looking for the post and don't see it. Do you have a link?

To answer your question. I cannot reveal the entire problem as we are going to probably file a couple law suits. But we saw our bandwidth just about vanish, and our Router CPU usage go from its typical 10% usage to full 100% usage.

We thought we had a DOS going on but it turns out that there were several Asterisks boxes doing some VERY illegal things. You mention other VOIP companies making sudden moves like we have just done in the last two days. I would guess that they were hit with this type thing long before us.

Again I cannot mention what we found was going on, but you would understand WHY if you did know.

So we, like the others, have had to ban everything that is not a ordinary consumer type device. It is sad that again a small group will cause harm to a very honest group.

If our move looks sudden, un planned, and handled a bit poorly, you are right. BUT this bacame a matter of keeping our service up and running. You would have thought that a bomb had gone off over here. NOT A FUN WEEK.

Bruce
=======================================
   
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MATHA531 (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 13:27

Bruce...

As long as you have asked, have you guys managed to fix the problem that sees me get charged for 5 minutes of time when a call goes into voice mail of a forwarded call...this has kept me from using voicestick for my trips and is a shame because you have a good product.

Certainly after several months, the cause of this should have been found and fixed...this does not seem to be a problems for any other phone provider I know of.

Thank you.
   
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VladS (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 14:44

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce_Nicklin
So we, like the others, have had to ban everything that is not a ordinary consumer type device. It is sad that again a small group will cause harm to a very honest group.
Bruce,

Are you in a position to define (and stick to) an acceptable third party CPE policy?

For most users, a single user CPE such as the Linksys PAP2 or Sipura 1001 devices are quite sufficient, for others, such as Stu and myself, Asterisk or other softPBX platforms are an absolute must not primarily because of their multi-user capabilities but their multipathing capabilities.

The proposed approach would be to limit the number of in- and out-bound concurrent channels available to each account (DID) to 1 or 2. Should this functionality not be available in your softswitch, softPBX users can implement this limitation in their configuration profile. You can enforce this rule by charging higher per minute rates for origination and termination on channels 3+.

Any thoughts?

vs


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Bossman (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 15:39

Unfortunately it has not been fixed yet. I forwarded my VS number to my US mobile number (to reduce the damage ) then gave it a try. I hung up as soon as the voicemail greeting came on. As you can tell from my call log, I was billed for 6 minutes. Don't know why this thing cannot be fixed. Hopefully, Bruce can shed some light on the issue.

Connect Date Description Number Minutes Charge
10/20/2006 10:25:08 AM USA RBOC and Mobile 1847XXXXXXX 6 0.12

Quote:
Originally Posted by MATHA531
Bruce...

As long as you have asked, have you guys managed to fix the problem that sees me get charged for 5 minutes of time when a call goes into voice mail of a forwarded call...this has kept me from using voicestick for my trips and is a shame because you have a good product.

Certainly after several months, the cause of this should have been found and fixed...this does not seem to be a problems for any other phone provider I know of.

Thank you.


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VladS (Offline)
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Default 20-10-2006, 16:44

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bossman
Unfortunately it has not been fixed yet. I forwarded my VS number to my US mobile number (to reduce the damage ) then gave it a try. I hung up as soon as the voicemail greeting came on. As you can tell from my call log, I was billed for 6 minutes. Don't know why this thing cannot be fixed. Hopefully, Bruce can shed some light on the issue.
One of the difficult issues VoSP's face is detection of far end disconnect.

It's quite likely their system requires a near end disconnect to properly terminate billing on a call, and in the case of call forwarding you have two far ends and no near end.

vs


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