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The Internet

ISP Sued Over Suspended Email Account 405

Saint Aardvark writes "A Canadian woman is suing her former ISP over their suspension of her email account. Their accounting system screwed up, and they suspended her account while they sought payment from her. What she didn't realize was that email sent to that address continued to pile up, without any notification to the sender that she had no access to it. She lost a chance at a $65,000 contract job at the Discovery channel because of this. Read the article at CNet, the complaint she brought to the Canadian Privacy Commisioner, and further details from the woman herself on Cryptome.org."
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ISP Sued Over Suspended Email Account

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  • by Vilim ( 615798 )
    i woudl flip out on my ISP, possibly parade outside thier office wearing a sandwich board filled with a few choice words, but i wouldn't go as far as suing :p
    • but i wouldn't go as far as suing :p Well, maybe if you were in a tight labor market and/or the job offer was something you were really focused on.... but still, shouldn't you get a phone call, rather than email, since email is so unreliable anyway (with the possible exception of 100+ spams a day, which is quite reliable, thank you very much) Heck, I'd be on the phone myself, trying to see how things were going. Maybe even request confirmation via FAX, since fax, unlike email, generates a confirmation it was received at the other end.

      Any ISP should have a disclaimer anyway that email and other account matters are provided as is, etc.

  • by no reason to be here ( 218628 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:12PM (#4583958) Homepage
    she should have been notifying people that might send her e-mail to send it to an alternate address. if all the e-mail had bounced back instead of going on to her inbox, i imagine the end result would have been the same.
    • Not really. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:16PM (#4583978)
      She was already in telephonic contact with the person. So if ther email had bounced back, there would have been chance that the person CALLED her. It did not so neither the Sender , nor the receiver were aware an email was sent/not read.

      And as such , the telco is responsible to either completly block the service or completly allow it. Not an half way.
      • by cybermage ( 112274 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @01:53PM (#4584397) Homepage Journal
        Bouncing someone's email is the equivalent of the telephonic error: "The number you have dialed has been disconnected or is no longer in service." If you called someone who was negotiating a contact with you and got that message, would you still award the contract? I think not.

        I ran an ISP with the same suspension policy. Email was allowed to pile up because to bounce it might damage the credibility of the account holder more than their not responding.

        If a suspended customer wanted mail bounced or forwarded, we would honor that request; but the default was to simply lock the account. Nearly all suspended customers resolved their situation within hours (poor, addicted L-users), and many of the unresolved suspensions were the result of clients moving or dying (really.)

        I feel for her, but the only alternative for ISPs is to pursue collections of overdue accounts. This is simply way too expensive. Bill in advance and suspend non-payers is the only efficient model. Anything else spikes your costs.
  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:12PM (#4583963) Homepage Journal
    This ISP better get ready to fork up 65k + damages.
    • 65K * numYearsWorkedPotential.
    • by digitalsushi ( 137809 ) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:38PM (#4584068) Journal
      Most (read: any ISP above moron status- doesnt mean all of them by any means!) have the dreaded "Acceptable Use Policy". Somewhere in the AUP, or some other disclaimer, ISPs have a blurb where they state they cannot be held accountable for financial loss due to system downtime and misconfiguration. I equate this to people who sue doctors out of business because in that inevitable mathematical instance of them screwing up (or not screwing up, just being out of luck) where they lose a life, and the family makes sure they dont come back. There, another good doctor who messed up a patient which will be replaced by some n00b who bats .650 but no one knows that cause he hasn't had a screw up yet. Tough luck lady- if you were clueless enough to make email your ONLY venue for contact on a 65k job, you deserve what you got. This is common sense people- would you hire someone who couldnt leave a phone number on their resume? Now for the rest of you who think she should get that 65k from the ISP- the ISP probably is going to be angry, but it's not them who will pay for it- their customers will. Either that or the ISP goes out of business and you just screwed up contact points for thousands of people, at the price of vindicating one. Sure, you can argue a flawless transition, but let's be honest- when's the last time an ISP level migration worked? When's the last time one that worked had people who were still OK to be bothered with it?
      • well said -- this person should not win the lottery at the expense of the other isp customers just because she lost some email
      • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @01:37PM (#4584312) Homepage Journal
        Most (read: any ISP above moron status- doesnt mean all of them by any means!) have the dreaded "Acceptable Use Policy". Somewhere in the AUP, or some other disclaimer, ISPs have a blurb where they state they cannot be held accountable for financial loss due to system downtime and misconfiguration.

        So what? You are not absolved of responsibility for your actions simply because you create an AUP that states that you are not responsible for your actions. Ski rental places have the same thing: You sign a form saying that they are not liable for any injury even if they botch the equipment. That agreement isn't worth the paper that it is printed on. If their screw-up causes you injury, then you have a right to damages.

        This is common sense people- would you hire someone who couldnt leave a phone number on their resume?

        Read the article next time instead of simply slandering the victim:

        When I opened them, one jumped out immediately; it was from the producer of a national daily magazine-style television show asking me to call her about a job opening on her show (I'm a freelance television journalist).


        Some points:

        1. She is a freelance television journalist.
        2. She was approached, via e-mail, with a job offer.
        3. There is no evidence that she solicited the offer by distributing her resume.
        4. When she did not respond in a timely manner, she apparently missed out on the opportunity.
        5. Because the ISP continued to accept mail for the woman but hold it hostage, the potential employer received no bounce and, thus, had no reason to phone.
        6. There is no indication that the potential employer even had the woman's phone number.
        7. A female journalist might have very good reasons for not widely disseminating her phone number.
        8. When there are multiple qualified people available, the potential employer may have simply chosen to contact another one rather than trying to track down someone who did not even answer the e-mail that was sent.

        Now for the rest of you who think she should get that 65k from the ISP- the ISP probably is going to be angry, but it's not them who will pay for it- their customers will.

        If the ISP's rates go up, then customers switch to more responsible ISPs -- an example of the market punishing incompetent providers. More likely would be that the ISP would change their policies such that they would only turn off e-mail as a last resort and/or that they would bounce messages sent to disabled e-mail addresses.

        I equate this to people who sue doctors out of business because in that inevitable mathematical instance of them screwing up

        Perhaps you will be that "mathematical instance."

        It seems to me that you believe that no one should sue anyone. A doctor can kill patient after patient through malpractice but no one should sue him -- and since no one sues, his incompetence doesn't come to light. Lost a loved one? Tough. Lump it. Lost out on a job because your ISP actively, and wrongfully, shut off your e-mail? Too bad. Don't you dare sue them. You should run for office. You'd get lots of campaign donations from big companies that want to be able to f*** over the consumer without fear of reprisals.

        • by trentfoley ( 226635 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @03:17PM (#4584733) Homepage Journal
          I've got to take exception with your point #6:

          6. There is no indication that the potential employer even had the woman's phone number.

          Reading the cnet article points out the following fact:

          Carter and her potential employer had exchanged telephone messages about the position. Unbeknownst to her, the e-mail would have been the next link in that chain, but by the time she got it, the position had been filled.

          So, had the message bounced, the potential employer would have been able to contact her by telephone.

        • Read the article next time ...
          (snip)
          6. There is no indication that the potential employer even had the woman's phone number.

          From the cnet article: "Carter and her potential employer had exchanged telephone messages about the position. ... the email was to be the next link in the chain." Sauce for the goose, eh? That sentence was in the same paragraph as the one you quoted.

          Perhaps you will be that "mathematical instance."

          Or me. How does a lawyer protect me? The point here is that infallibility is impossible, even for doctors, and certainly for ISPs. Every doctor who sees sick people will make a mistake. Sue them or not, you can't make a perfect doctor.

          A doctor can kill patient after patient through malpractice ... -- and since no one sues, his incompetence doesn't come to light.

          A review/oversight board brings it to light. If a patient or patient's family makes a compaint, it gets investigated. The courts, and jurors who have no experience or education from which to evaluate the facts of a case, are ill-prepared to handle such cases.

          Lost a loved one? Tough. Lump it.

          Everyone loses loved ones. People die. Bad things happen. But its not a free ticket to sue everyone who had contact with them.

          This ISP made a mistake. She should certainly be compensated in some form. But to hold the ISP responsible for the salary she might have made is pushing it too far. How many others were also in contention for the spot? When my company has been looking to hire people, we don't contact them one-at-a-time. We'll try and interview as many as possible. Also, if we really wanted somebody, and they didn't respond to an email, we'd follow up with a phone-call; we wouldn't give up unless we had somebody else just as qualified that we'd give the job to. My guess is this was far from a sure thing. At most she should be compensated for the value of the contract (it was not a full-time job) divided by her chances of getting it.

          Even then, I think its a bit of a stretch to hold an ISP responsible for the potential monetary value of each email going through their system. She should not be paid 65K because of one email. I assume (ICBW) that this was a personal email account, not a business email account. Most ISPs have more expensive services for small businesses. They're more expensive because they have to be mission critical. If you're doing business by email, and if one email could lose you $65k, you should be paying more than me, who's not really doing anything critical with it. I'd just as soon pay the lower rates and take my chances. But since I'm knowingly doing so, I also shouldn't get my drawers in an uproar because I then lose out if I get in a tiff with them and refuse to pay my bill.

          Now that said, I do think that the other element in her lawsuit, the change in policy to have emails to suspended accounts bounce rather than stick makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, most of the 'facts' in this case are coming from the aggreived party, so there may be some spin. One question is wether she had told Inter.net that she was cancelling the account, or had simply stopped calling them. That's not clear from her account of the situation (or I missed it). It makes a big difference. It's plausible that their thinking was that the billing dispute would eventually be resolved, and that the account would be re-activated. In which case she then gets all the email that she'd recieved in that time. Some people would probably prefer that, although I wouldn't.

          On another note, not all ISPs do the black-hole thing. I've got at&t broadband, and managed to forget to pay a bill while I was on vacation this summer. When my account was suspended, my email account started bouncing messages. I found out because I'd sent an email to my roomate (different address on the same account) and it'd bounced. So I was able to settle up and not lose any emails, although I was still incommunicado til then. They suck other ways, but that's not one of them.
    • Maybe she/Discovery should have been smart enough to use an alternate high-tech method of communication, like those new fangled telephone thingamajigs.
  • by brianvan ( 42539 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:14PM (#4583966)
    ... she also lost the chance to get a low interest mortgage, purchase cheap airline tickets, and enlarge her penis!
  • by 26199 ( 577806 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:14PM (#4583970) Homepage

    Hmm, from their terms and conditions:

    4.1 Inter.net makes no guarantees as to the continuous availability of the Service or any specific feature of the Service. Inter.net reserves the right to change the Service at any time with or without notice. Features of the Service that are subject to change include, but are not limited to: access procedures, commands, documentation, hours of operation, menu structures, and vendors. Inter.net cannot and will not guarantee that the Service will provide Internet access that is sufficient to meet your needs.

    4.2 THE SERVICE IS PROVIDED ON AN "AS IS" AND "AS AVAILABLE" BASIS. NEITHER INTER.NET NOR ITS AFFILIATES WARRANTS THAT THE SERVICE WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR-FREE OR THAT ANY INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, OR OTHER MATERIAL ACCESSIBLE ON THE SERVICE IS FREE OF VIRUSES, OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS.

    As usual, they don't guarantee to offer any service at all. Surely that puts them in the clear here?

    • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:18PM (#4583987)
      No. Just because something is in a contract doesn't make it legal. Happens all the time. You can sign a contract agreeing to kill someone, but obviously, that contract is null and void. Those trucks with the stickers plastered on back that say "not responsible for broken windshields"... they're responsible.

      In this case, a judge is gonna say that the spirit of the contract was for x amount of Net service over x period of time. A lawyer obviously didn't even look at the ISP's contract before they started using it.
      • Hmm... I would love to see how something like this is dealt with in court... anyone know of any examples?

        (i.e. specifically regarding 'we don't guarantee any service' terms for ISPs, software, or other computer-related matters?)

    • by WEFUNK ( 471506 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:49PM (#4584113) Homepage
      As usual, they don't guarantee to offer any service at all. Surely that puts them in the clear here?

      Except, perhaps, that her ongoing lack of service was due to an explicit suspension after an accounting mistake, and was not due to an inadvertent or accidently dropped e-mail, temporary outage, or virus.

      Parking lots typically post disclaimers indemnifying them from any responsibility for stolen or damaged property, but that shouldn't protect them if their own attendents start smashing the windows of parked cars or even if they turn a blind eye to blatant abuse.

      Also, her actual complaint has more to do with what happened after she tried to cancel her account (they left her mailbox active and didn't bouce incoming mail) than with her temporary lack of service.

      I don't think her case is necessarily that strong or that it falls under these terms and conditions, but even if it did I don't think that such waivers would necessarily put the ISP in the clear.
  • So, she gets one email message and no phone call and decides that she's out 60 grand, so sue?!

    If it was really all that important to her, she would have paid the $100 she owed the company,
    or find a company that hosts email properly.

    The free email that comes with the isp package is usually not very good.
    Most people figure that out without losing $60,000.

    But really, if you are using email for work you should pay and get a good service, or better yet,
    set up your own email host, so if something goes wrong, you have someone to fix it.
    • I presume that you pay your ISP a monthly bill. Additionally, they provide you access to your e-mail. All part of the understood contract between you and your ISP. Should you decide not to continue to pay your ISP, they have every right to suspend your account, or even add a .forward file to your account that redirects all your mail to /dev/null if they wish.

      The question here is if your ISP messes up your accounting, whether it be failing to register the fact that you paid your bill, or double billing you, or billing you the wrong amount, should they then be allowed to prevent you from accessing your account.

      This is why many businesses require written notification to cancel subscription accounts. That way they have a paper trail allowing them to take the actions that are required.

      Of course you sometimes experience situations like mine where the ISP thinks I haven't been getting my e-mail so they put the .forward file redirecting my e-mail to /dev/null in my user directory. A quick sanity check noting that I receive between 20 and 100 messages a day, including spam, and they ain't sitting in the account, and I didn't have a .forward file, should have shown that there is something wrong with the system tracking whether I am logging in to get my e-mail or not.

      With the other things that have been happening this week, I have no idea who may have sent me e-mail. Well, ok I know about the spam, but don't really care about that.

      -Rusty
    • the whole "loss of a 60 grand contract" part of this sounds a little fishy to me. granted, this IS THE ISP's FAULT since their accounting fucked up and her service was suspended thru no fault of her own, entitling her to damages caused by the loss of service, BUT i think this claim of losing a contract is stretching it a little. i know that we live in a technological age, but people still do put phone numbers on resumes. if the discover channel was serious about offering her a contract for 60 grand, you think they'd do more than send her an e-mail or two and give up when they dont get a response. e-mail is not a crutch for communication (maybe not yet) but telephones are still essential, so i ask her: why didnt they call you about this contract if they were going to give it to you??

  • I wonder if (Score:5, Interesting)

    by redfiche ( 621966 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:20PM (#4583992) Journal
    anyone has ever successfully sued the postal system for a lost letter? Given our litigation-happy society, I can't help but think someone has tried.
    • by BlueGecko ( 109058 ) <benjamin@pollack.gmail@com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:45PM (#4584090) Homepage
      I'm sure they've tried, but mysteriously, the summons never seems to arrive...
    • Courts are legally required to assume that if a letter is put in the mail it will arrive. Therefore you cannot sue the post office for losing your letters unless there is negligence on the part of an employee.
    • Re:I wonder if (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zmooc ( 33175 )
      The email was not "lost"; it was knowingly not delivered to the recipient. That would be the same as the postal system knowlingly not delivering the letter, for which they probably could be successfully sued.
    • Sovereign Immunity (Score:3, Informative)

      by Detritus ( 11846 )
      As a general rule, you can't sue the government unless they specifically permit it via legislation. It dates back to the principle that "the king can do no wrong".
    • Re:I wonder if (Score:3, Informative)

      by dacarr ( 562277 )
      You can't sue the US postal service for lost mail, and I'll tell you why - they offer insurance.

      To explain: the US Postal Service provides various means to traceably mail articles of value - registered mail is kept under lock and key and comes with insurance for milllions in value at an additional fee, basic insurance for up to $5000 is available with options for receipt of delivery, and there are other means that allow you to trace status of mail in and/or confirm delivery out of the system (certified mail, receipt for merchandise, etc., etc., ad nauseam).

      The point here is that they have insurance for you to purchase for a reason, and if you are mailing something of that kind of value that, if lost or damaged in transit, you needed to recover the value somehow, you really should be taking advantage of one of the services that insurance is available for.

      All shippers, in fact, offer insurance in one form or another - UPS and other non-government shippers offers it for $100 at their base rates, and private couriers are bonded, specifically so that if your article gets lost or damaged, you get reimbursed. It takes time, but a lot less than suing the government.

  • by SpiffyMarc ( 590301 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:23PM (#4584005)
    After working at a couple local dial-up ISPs, I always find it funny that our terms of service basically guarantee that if you have a problem that you'd like to pursue legally, we can kick you in the beanbag and then charge you for it.

    Noone ever reads those things.. maybe they should. Heh.
  • by Corporate Drone ( 316880 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:23PM (#4584009)
    She's not mad because she was without an email address; in fact, she had already changed email providers.

    so, even though the email was sent to her old address (in which case you gotta ask -- did she use an old resume? did she even give out her new address?), she's mad that the old ISP didn't bounce the email?

    in other words, she's suing because she would've wanted the potential employer to notice the bounced email, and try to contact her to find out her new address???

    Sorry... that just doesn't cut it...

    • It's entirely possible the potential employer had her email address from before she had the problem.

      So yes that does cut it. The fact that it was a mistake in her ISP's accounting system in the first place only makes it worse.
    • It doesn't cut it for $60,000, but it is worth soemthing. And if you sue someone you start at the highest and work down. For example, in a car accident if you are sharking you start with pain and suffering for $250,000. Then end up withmax insurance coverage, (hopefully still around $80,000).

      She will start with max contract length, but will probably wants a month or two pay to cover finding a new job. Obviously if they paid the whole year it would be absolutly unfair. She does not get to sit on her ass for a year because they screwed up, but possibly she gets money to cover her bills while looking for a new job.
    • How does that not cut it? When you move out of your apartment, it's a crime for the new occupants to open your mail, or to keep your mail, or to throw your mail away; they are obliged to put it back noting it was misdelivered. It was NOT for them.

      When your account with an isp is cancelled, they should not be collecting email on your behalf.

      When paypal freezes your account for investigation, they should not be accepting payment.

      etcetera.
  • by cyberlotnet ( 182742 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:26PM (#4584017) Homepage Journal
    Lets put this in terms that anyone should be able to understand..

    1. You live in a apartment.
    2. They evict you for what ever reason.
    3. You never had time to forward/tell people new address.
    4. Mail goes to old address.
    5. You ask for mail.
    6. They tell you "No not until you pay us what you owe".

    This is a FEDERAL OFFENSE, punishable by jail time..

    This is EXACTLY what they did to her, but only in the "virtual" world..

    Email is becoming so important to our everyday lives that maybe laws should be passed to protect email, just like they where passed to protect normal mail.
    • by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:36PM (#4584062)
      This is EXACTLY what they did to her, but only in the "virtual" world..

      So she should virtually win the case. The ISP should virtually pay here large amounts of virtual cash for her virtual damages. Seems virtually fair to me.
    • by scoove ( 71173 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:46PM (#4584100)
      Email is becoming so important to our everyday lives that maybe laws should be passed to protect email, just like they where passed to protect normal mail

      Sure, and you're going to pay $0.35 per message for the protection. Oh, and that's only for non-guaranteed protected email. If you want a guarantee, we'll charge you $3.50.

      What? Did you protection comes free? (Need to watch more Sopranos if you did).

      Think about why email is free for a moment - you're paying for Internet transport (essentially layers three and four of the OSI model), and you're free to do whatever you want above that.

      But now you're asking for application-layer guarantees. Here's what comes with your demand:

      - specification of how you may and may not use your application layer. Count on Microsoft Outlook/Outlook Express as the only permitted email client. Do you think we have time to support your Linux system when 90% or more are happy with Outlook?

      - creation of rules on what kinds of messages are permitted; e.g. attachments may not exceed 1 MB, must be known and permitted media types (no MP3s or ZIPs since the RIAA will quickly get into this game)

      - a fee per message and per month for your "guaranteed email."

      - government rules, regulations and restrictions on the whole business.

      Understand that the USPS salivates at your demand for safety/protection/guarantee in a world that doesn't have them. They've prepared numerous proposals for guaranteed email (including my favorite that would make my email address something like sam_scoove_1234_north_elm_street_mycity_st@usps.co m ).

      So make sure you're ready to pay the price (in dollars and freedom) before you demand big brother makes email "safe" for you.

      *scoove*
    • The problem is that in the virtual world Digimon and the like routinely eat your email messages, the only justice system is the noble system of slashdotting.

      and the only way out... is suicide!
    • They tell you "No not until you pay us what you owe".

      This is a FEDERAL OFFENSE, punishable by jail time..

      Damn, and I thought we had freedom of speech. I'd like to see the U.S. Code that makes this illegal.

      In any case...

      Email is becoming so important to our everyday lives that maybe laws should be passed to protect email, just like they where passed to protect normal mail.

      No, they shouldn't. The internet is not real life. There shouldn't be any laws whatsoever about what I do over the internet.

      • freedom of speech? you think holding mail for ransom is an issue of freedom of speech? how about robbing a bank, i got freedom of speech to threaten the accountant with a big honkin gun?

        extortion(sp?) is illeagal in usa afaik.

        the local mall i go to isn't real life either, i should be able to eat for free at the grocery store.

        also the phonecalls i make aren't real because i can't touch the essence of the message.

        the routers that route internet aren't real either.

        also my talking isn't real.

        also this post isn't real.

        that's just as weak as saying my religion doesn't allow for intrest rates i should get my loans for zero intrest.
      • That would be somewhere in:

        18 U.S.C. 1700 Desertion of mail
        18 U.S.C. 1701 Obstruction of mail generally
        18 U.S.C. 1702 Obstruction of correspondence
        18 U.S.C. 1703 Delay or destruction of mail or newspapers
        and/or
        18 U.S.C. 1708 Theft or receipt of stolen mail matter generally

        http://www.usps.com/websites/depart/inspect/usc18/ welcome1.htm [usps.com]

        I have to agree with the victim in the story, it's very bad policy to just collect Email for their own uses.. If I'm an ISP, and you're a customer, when you're no longer a customer, should I collect and potentially read your personal Email? No. When you're no longer a customer, I should delete your account, and let the SMTP server handle the bonuce-backs..

        This says the receiver isn't valid.
        ---
        >>> RCPT To:
        >>> DATA
        550 5.1.1 ... User unknown
        ---

        This says the receiver *IS* valid.
        ---
        >>> RCPT To:
        >>> DATA
        250 2.1.5 ... Recipient ok
        ----

        I would accept the second to receive my message and respond if they were interested. The first will generate an error in my box, where I'll know to contact them in other ways..

        As far as the job opprotunity was concerned, she didn't respond because she wasn't interested. And that's the ISP's fault for accepting the Email for a closed account. I don't know that it should be a law, but if that's what it takes to get ISP's to fix their flawed policies, so be it.
        • Regarding the laws you cited, I don't really have the time to try to guess which one you thought would apply and how. I don't see how any of them apply.

          If I'm an ISP, and you're a customer, when you're no longer a customer, should I collect and potentially read your personal Email?

          Unless you contractually agreed not to, I don't see why not.

          When you're no longer a customer, I should delete your account, and let the SMTP server handle the bonuce-backs..

          OK, now what if someone else wanted to use the same account name? Are you under an obligation to not allow them to? What if you decide you want to use the same account name for your own purposes? No, if you didn't contractually agree to continue providing bounce service after account deletion you're under no obligation to do so.

          550 5.1.1 ... User unknown

          But the user is known. Besides, I see no reason why RFCs should be enforced by the U.S. government.

  • Come on, guys.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:26PM (#4584019) Homepage Journal
    I can't believe, what, three-quarters? of the posts on here are people going "OH WELL SHE SHOULD HAVE PAID THEN DUH".

    The accounting system screwed up, ok? She was already paid up and they wanted more money.

    Now, the ISP terms said they wouldn't guarantee error-or-interruption-free service. BUT...this isn't covered under that. It was an accounting error, and they suspended her account. This is not the same as if, say, their DNS servers borked.

    I'd say she deserves compensation. Definitely. I have had my share of burns from ISP's with OUTRIGHT SHODDY accounting and business practices. Fortunately, nothing so serious...yet. About the only problem was paying THREE TIMES at their suggestion because they said the transaction didn't go through....and then receiving a bill for all three charges. That was an immediate cancel, and lucky for them they credited back the amount.

    I hope she wins the case, I'd like to see some of these ISP's get a little more professional. It is a business after all, not a geek club.
    • Re:Come on, guys.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by compwizrd ( 166184 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:51PM (#4584119)
      "According to Carter, Inter.net presented her with a $214 charge for 14 months of service that had gone unbilled because of an accounting error."

      Sound more like she wasn't billed, and for 14 months kept using the service, even though she
      knew she wasn't being billed.

      "Carter said she agreed to pay half, an arrangement the company initially accepted but later rejected."

      And then on top of it, when they realized she wasn't paying, she tried to get out of paying for what she owed.
      • Not sure what you're getting at...they made an accounting mistake. If they didn't bill her when they were supposed to, what gives them the right to go back and demand 200 smackers out of the blue?

        She wanted to keep her service going, but at the same time didn't want to clean up the mess that was their own fault. I wouldn't have even offered to pay the 200 bucks, and would have canceled the service since they obviously couldn't handle the business.

        Many ISP's have a credit-card auto-deduct service. I imagine she didn't pore over her credit card bill every month to look for something that wasn't there.
        • Re:Come on, guys.... (Score:2, Interesting)

          by The Kow ( 184414 )
          "Not sure what you're getting at...they made an accounting mistake. If they didn't bill her when they were supposed to, what gives them the right to go back and demand 200 smackers out of the blue?"

          Companies do this rather frequently. If you're using a service and not being charged for it, I would imagine you're still liable to be charged for it. Especially if you want to continue your service with that company.
      • Free Cable TV (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dbCooper0 ( 398528 )
        My take on this is along the same lines as yours, but it jogged my memory back to a similar situation:

        About 15 years ago I ordered Cable TV when it just became available. For the first three months I didn't receive a bill, which was also supposed to include my HBO guide. The office was 4 miles away, and each month I stopped by and picked up the guide, and notified them that I wasn't being billed.

        Then I just subscribed to TV Guide, and never bothered with this fly-by-night outfit. I continued getting premium cable TV for about 7 years.

        During this time the company changed hands about three times, during which I never received a bill. A physical audit finally caused the current company to catch up with me.

        So I ordered basic cable from them, which really sucked. Had they demanded payment for all those years, I would have laughed them off.

        The next month I cancelled the basic service, and got DirectTV :)

        • Re:Free Cable TV (Score:5, Interesting)

          by compwizrd ( 166184 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @02:13PM (#4584475)
          And the key difference there, is that you made a diligent effort to fix their mistake.

          It's like finding a hundred dollar bill on the ground that someone just dropped in front of you. You go up to them, tell them you saw them drop it, and it's theirs.

          They insist it's not yours. You continue to tell them its theirs, and back and forth. Finally you give up after arguing with the guy for 5 minutes, and pocket the bill.

          They see you on the street 6 months later, and demand their 100 dollar bill back, or they'll call the police.

          In this isp's case, you took the bill, didn't tell the person in front of you, followed them around, and kept picking up the bills they dropped. When they reviewed security camera footage of the area later, realized you were the one that took the 100 dollar bill, you deny it, and then sue them when they tell you to stop following them.
          • If someone provides me a service with no contract stating terms of payment, they're free to try and bill me, and I'm free to try and not pay it.

            She isn't entitled to free email, but nor is it clear the company is entitled to extort payment from her. If they chose not to bill her for 14 months, that's their loss. See: estoppel [dictionary.com], laches [dictionary.com].

            Sounds like she was playing with fire and got burned. I imagine, though that she'll have her way since she's willing to assert her case in court. She never would if she just sucked it up and paid.
  • by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:28PM (#4584027) Journal
    Without even so much as asking, they just deleted my account with no backup of my inbox. Because of MSN/Hotmail, I've now lost these amazing oppurtunities to:

    Enlarge my penis
    Enlarge my breasts
    Meet Singles in my area
    Meet Sexy singles in my area
    Meet my former classmates all over again
    Refinance my house at a low, low interest rate
    Consolodate my debt
    Copy DVDs
    Lose weight while I sleep
    Work from Home
    Accept written guarantees of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars
    Get my .BIZ or .INFO domain while it's still available.

    Watch out Bill Gates... I've got about 100 million dollars in lost oppurtunity because of you, and I'm going to come and get it!
  • I wasn't paying for the account, though.

    I swapped ISPs for a couple of years, and when I went back to the first one, they had never disabled mail and I got 2 years of mail in one download.

    Email is a primary method of contact, and I had people that thought I was ignoring them, and they got pissed off. I also had initial contract offers (big ticket items, too) from 2 consulting companies. Since I had moved twice, the old email was the only contact info they had. Oh well...
  • by TWX_the_Linux_Zealot ( 227666 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:29PM (#4584033) Journal
    I know that many people are probably going "WTF?!" at this, but I can see how she's justified. Anyone providing a service, especially a paid-in-advance service, should be required to actually maintain their services properly. If this doesn't happen, and it causes damages, I belive that the problem should be sorted out legally.

    The woman might not be entitled to $65,000, but if she is working right now, she may be easily entitled to the differences between her current job's pay and the new one, for a court-determined period of time (like, a year, or maybe even two or three if it is determined that this amount of time will be required to get back 'on track'.

    just my two cents...
  • by GoatPigSheep ( 525460 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:37PM (#4584066) Homepage Journal
    She lost a chance at a $65,000 contract job at the Discovery channel because of this.

    I don't know about you guys, but that seems a little bit odd to me. Normally an employer would call you if they were offering a 65k contract job. Maybe if she left them her phone number it would have worked out.
  • by dougmc ( 70836 ) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:40PM (#4584079) Homepage
    And what was the chances of her actually getting the contract?

    I see that she's suing for 2x that ... sounds like a great deal -- sue for double what you might have gotten, 1/3rd goes to your lawyer, netting you more money ($87k) than you would have gotten in the first place (assuming that you even got the job!), and you don't have to even work for it!

    Nice to know that the US isn't the only place that's sue-happy.

    From the C/Net article --

    ... and adopt instead the practice of deflecting such e-mails back to the senders with notification to the effect that the messages could not be delivered.
    If my mail is having a temporary problem, and it can be queued up for me until I can access it again, that's what I want -- I don't want it bouncing. Bouncing email is bad bad bad!

    Are these people aware of what they're asking for?

    The ISP's contract appears to be pretty clear -- they don't guarantee that everything will work all the time. Pretty standard, I think. It'll be interesting how this turns out (personally, I hope that this goes to court, and the woman loses.)

    I wonder what the next step is -- suing your ISP because their spam filter blocked/flagged an email offering you a $65k job? Or even worse -- suing them because they didn't filter your spam for you, and so you accidently deleted the $65k job offer yourself, think it's spam.

    People, email is unreliable (and so is postal mail, for that matter.) If you don't get an email (or postal mail receipt) back that acknowledges receipt of that mail (Return-Recept-To: doesn't quite cut it), or your friend doesn't call you and say `thanks!', you cannot be certain that it's been received. Period.

    (Return-Receipt-To: isn't good enough because it's sent by the receiving mail daemon when the mail is received, not when the mail is actually read. After receipt, it could be lost to a disk failure, system problem, spam filter, or just accidently deleted.)

    • The user did absolutely everything right. She paid her bills on time, called when there was a problem. The ISP did absolutely everything wrong. Due to an error on their part, they cut her off, and it did not specify in their agreement what their policy is on non-payment.

      Surely, you can write down your policies when you run an ISP? And when a new situation arises, or someone points out the deficiency, you can give the person the benefit of the doubt, can't you? Is it that hard?
    • by WEFUNK ( 471506 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @01:19PM (#4584238) Homepage
      Beyond issues of mandatory bouncing and bad reply-to addresses, there are more than just technical problems with her goal of "barring ISPs from collecting e-mail sent to delinquent accounts and of forcing them to notify e-mail senders when an account they have tried to reach is inactive."

      It also means that ISP's wouldn't be allowed to recycle e-mail addresses and might even create privacy issues (ironic because she originally filed her complaint with the Federal privacy commissioner). For instance, the CNET article mentions how AOL sends out different notifications to members and non-members, as though this is a bad thing. I think the intention of this type of policy is to prevent outside users from being able to determine between an account that is nonexistent, cancelled, inactive, full, blocking certain addresses, or just temporarily unavailable. Changing these policies could make things even easier for spammers to build accurate lists and to track the status and behavior of individual user accounts.

      She raises some valid issues with the reliability of e-mail in general, and some that might even have solutions, but overly dramatic or poorly thought out "solutions" might also create issues far worse than the existing problems. I hope the judge or jury will understand this, even if they side with her individual case.
  • ISP still aren't acting like real businesses. In a time when a huge chunk of the world has gotten to the point of relying on their internet account, this is rediculous. Phone companies and utilities, hell even TV cable companies, have better checks and balances before they yank your service. And a notification that the service in unavailable to people trying to access it is pretty damn easy to do.

    I have had problems with most of the IPS I have tried, and I have never been late on a payment for anything! Other businesses love me (except credit cards, which want you to be late).

    This case may be a little frivalous, but it will be a kick in the ass to ISPs to be more professional with their service.

  • by Henry V .009 ( 518000 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:46PM (#4584099) Journal
    The /. herd has gone off on lawsuits and what not--but the real issue is much bigger. According to the article, the problem is ISP's continuing to accept emails to closed acconts, storing them, and then using them as leverage to force customers to pay disputed bills.

    In his report, Canada's Privacy Commissioner said Inter.net's policies are standard practice in the ISP industry that need to be changed.


    The commissioner recommended that "the ISP immediately cease collecting, storing, and denying access to e-mails addressed to holders of accounts under suspension and adopt instead the practice of deflecting such e-mails back to the senders with notification to the effect that the messages could not be delivered."
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:53PM (#4584127)
    I use both a mail redirection service (Pobox) and a seperate mail service (Runbox), so I don't have to rely on my ISP for ANYTHING. If runbox has a problem I can direct the Pobox mail elsewhere. If my ISP has a problem at least I can go somewhere else to read my email over the web.

    Email is important enough to justify $40 a year to make sure it's going to work when you need it!
  • Do it yourself... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jcostantino ( 585892 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @12:55PM (#4584133) Homepage
    After being jerked around by a former ISP with email problems due to their incompetence, I decided to roll my own email.

    Static IP address, email server software, domain name, free DNS hosting and a PC running all the time. Now, either the DNS is screwed up (rare) or my DSL is down (even more rare). I can do whatever I want, which includes relay with authentication.

  • This whole thing is pretty sad. I hear from people on a daily basis that don't pay their bill and wonder why their service is disconnected. I hear complaints to the effect of: "I'M LOSING $10,000.00 AN HOUR BECAUSE YOU &^%$@*&%^ DISCONNECTED ME!!!", "I HAVE IMPORTANT EMAIL THAT I NEED...I'M WAITING FOR AN IMPORTANT CLIENT!!!!", "I AM MISSING A CLASS THAT I HAD TO TAKE ONLINE FOR THE LATEST UNSKILLED STOOGE TRADE PSEUDO COLLEGE I AM ATTENDING!!. Well, the bottom line is simply pay your damned bill. If you refuse to pay your bill and decide to go to another ISP just email your contacts and inform them of the email address change.
    The reason why the email accounts still accept mail and are not deleted immediately is due to the fact that some people may at times simply forget to pay the bill or have an outside entity (main corporate office) that pays the bill for them and may be a wee bit slow paying some months. This gives them the time to pay without having to lose their email accounts or any email that may have been delivered to them in the up to 2 months+ that they were in non-pay status. I can only imagine the hell there would be to pay if all accounts were deleted instantly at the time of nonpayment. As far as her storefront analogy goes....it doesn't even make sense. She is comparing apples to oranges here. The ISP is NOT operating her business and acting as her agent in obtaining contracts. Lets say at her store that customers were mailing payments to her using the good old fashioned US Postal Service. It would NOT be her landlords responsibility to notify all her clients that her store was now closed....It would be HER responsibility to do this via a change of address notification to all of her clients. Also, how are we sure that the ISP was in error?? Most people seem to have a hard time grasping the concept of their bill being payed for services in advance and not in arrears. Also, when people get late charges...they tend to think that they can simply pay the bill and not pay the late charges which can and DO accumulate over the months. I for one am waiting to see proof that the ISP was in error and it was simply not her own ignorance that caused the account to become delinquent in the first place. She should be happy that the ISP keeps her email for her for long enough to pay her damned bill or notify her contacts of her new address!!

    • Someone please mod Mr. "I work for AOL, so you better listen to my massive years of experience" down, he didn't even read the story.

      The lady did pay her bill in this case. It was the ISP who made the accounting mistake and wrongfully turned off her account.

      If my internet service was wrongfully disconnected, I would immedietly call and get it straightened out over the phone with the ISP directly. I can't imagine the amount of time required to make that call being enough time to actually lose any email. Mail usually gets queued up somewhere when it can't be sent immedietly, and internet service accounts usually get suspended first, not shutoff. Someone was obviously being over-zealous in this case.

      I also would add that people who rely on their ISP for 100% flawless email delivery are kidding themselves. Anything important should be sent to a domain name you registered and have hosted by an actual hosting company or co-lo service. There and only there will you find accountability for services.

      I am destiney and I'm an IT Manager for a profitable dot-com who didn't die in the bust.. :)

    • Mostly I agree with you.

      It is alleged in this case that the problem is not that she failed to pay for services, but that the ISP's accounting system overcharged her for services, which she refused to pay, and that the accounting department failed to address the situation. Having been on both sides of the border between customer and running an ISP, I do have to say that this is a very real problem, and can make ISPs liable.

      I have too many times encountered people who simply assume that computer systems are 100% correct, and that if the computer says it, it must be so. And the sad fact is such concepts seem to be the rule in customer service and accounting departments. More often, accounting issues are directed by customer service to a different accounting department phone number or email address. My first such experience was with Netcom (before the Earthlink merger) where they had double charged my CC for one month. Customer service (which could never be reached any sooner than a 45 minute wait, though fortunately on a local phone number) referred me to a long distance number for accounting, which I wasted 30 minutes in long distance charges trying to reach and never could. I left a message and they they never called back. I emailed them several times and got automated responses about half the time, usually after 2-3 days. The problem was not resolved so 3 months later I tried to cancel. Customer service then said that I had to call accounting to cancel. I emailed my cancellation notice several times but the CC charges kept coming. Finally I called my CC company and they not only reversed all the charges all the way back to and including both postings of the double billing, they also blocked that merchant account on my CC account so future charges would not be posted. So NOW I get 2 messages left on MY answering machine from Netcom. I just never called them back.

      So, *IFF* she can make the case that the ISP is at fault in having caused the account to be canceled or closed when it otherwise would not be, even though she switched to another ISP because of being unhappy with the situation, due to a failure of the accounting system combined with a failure of the staff to realize a problem and override the accounting system, then I think the ISP should be liable. But the ISP also has a defense depending on when the email regarding her potential employment was sent. If that email was sent sufficiently later than when she opened another account intended to replace her prior account, then she should have been responsible for notifying the sender that her email address had changed, as long as she had prior communications with that sender.

      If the problem is in the accounting system software, the ISP then may be able to sue the provider of that accounting system for the losses, including customer losses and lost staff time dealing with it all. More often, I think, it's simply incorrect administration, setup, configuration, or the underlying OS.

  • by duren686 ( 463275 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @01:02PM (#4584169) Homepage Journal
    She lost a chance at a $65,000 contract job at the Discovery channel because of this.

    I'm sure that they would have been glad to welcome her to the team when they read a "This email address has been suspended" auto-message.
  • by no_such_user ( 196771 ) <jd-slashdot-20071008&dreamallday,com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @01:04PM (#4584178)
    Take a look at the information for filmmaker Peter Hall [metal-tiger.com]'s lawsuit against Earthlink [metal-tiger.com]. He's been fighting them since 1997, after they wrongly identified him as a spammer and shutdown his account. His film Delinquent [metal-tiger.com] was just about to be released, and Earthlink's refusal to release his account from (incorrectly identified) "spammer" status caused him to miss a number of critical emails related to the film's release and distribution.

    WASHINGTON, D.C., July 30, 1998 --- The Law Office of Andrew Grosso announced today the filing of a civil complaint against EarthLink Network, Inc., an Internet Service Provider headquartered in Pasadena, California. The complaint charges EarthLink with breach of contract, libel, negligence, and a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in relation to the company's abrogation of electronic communications services it provided to the plaintiffs, as well as to its subsequent appropriation of these subscribers' e-mail. The complaint was filed today in Manhattan, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.


    Check out his film [metal-tiger.com] while you're at it...
  • by tyrelb ( 619467 ) <tb-slashdot.tyrel@ca> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @01:07PM (#4584187)
    1) Register a domain. If you change ISPs, you will not lose your e-mail address.

    2) Notify ALL of your clients if you change your e-mail address.

    3) If you are changing, expect to receive e-mail at your old address. You may want to hold onto that old address for a short while (6 months?) and ensure the bills are paid (pre-pay if you have to)
  • by Crash Culligan ( 227354 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @01:20PM (#4584243) Journal
    For starters, I can't see anything the woman did wrong. If it was a well enough written resume that she could land a $65K contract with a media conglomerate, then she probably included her phone and smail (snail-mail) addresses too. (Side question: does this mean she can sue the Discovery Channel for not trying to contact her some other ways?)

    Now, as for the ISP...

    Some say that email is free, which makes it different from smail. This isn't entirely true; while smail requires "stamps," email works on a subscription service. Pay your ISP, the ISP provides you with an address which you can send to and from. Because they have costs too -- supporting the lines and hubs you dial in on, connecting to other hubs, etc.

    If you change addresses, and start getting mail sent to a different address, what happens?

    In the case of the smail, you get the stuff forwarded from your old address to the new address -- and that's perfectly fair because the sender paid to get the letter or package to you. This is helped considerably by the fact that all the post offices are owned by the same company. BTW, this is probably the only case I can think of in which a monopoly helps the consumer.

    In the case of email, what happens? One person pays a fee to send the email, which goes out onto the network. (This is a recipe for disaster in some peoples' minds -- we promisenot to read it. Really!) All other systems agree to pass it along, until it gets to the other end.

    The receiver pays as well, to send and receive messages. This would seem to last as long as the user pays. But some of that time is wasted at the start because people have to publish or otherwise get that new email address out, same as if you changed your smail address.

    And when the user changes services, what happens to the email still inbound to the box? Some people will say that the email should be shut off, any new messages bounced. Anyone with any sense of fair play would also say that since there was a lag time before the address could be used that anything new that comes into the address should be bounced to the new address, with a message back to the sender that a new address is being used. These are ethical solutions that may be overlooked because we are talking about "business" here, which seems to work by different rules.

    The article on C|Net is clear enough on the point: ISPs' handling of email under special circumstances is not merely twisted but actually sprained.

    And I consider it a very good point.

    Much of the Internet is still frontier-grade in its rules, with its share of rail barons [microsoft.com] and robber barons [riaa.com] and common horse thieves [petemoss.com] and a government that lives very very far away and has little hope of understanding this wild frontier for the next several generations.

    What's missing here is not legislation but common sense.

    I think that when a user stops service, old and new mail should be forwarded if possible for two to four weeks, and then simply handled like any other bounce. I consider this ethical and sensible. Other peoples' common senses and ethics may say other things.

    Which leads to the questions: a) How do we decide on an optimal solution, and b) how do we make the non-ethical, non-sensible people follow suit?

  • Google Cache (Score:3, Informative)

    by thebabelfish ( 213456 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @01:26PM (#4584267) Homepage
    The google cache of the cryptome [google.com] page.
  • by systemapex ( 118750 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @01:28PM (#4584274)
    Inter.net represent everything that could have - and did - go wrong with ISP mergers. It's a hodge-podge collection of former "mom & pop" ISPs that were bought out or merged into this new entity Inter.net to attempt to keep up with the competition. But they did so too fast and too haphazardly. A classic case of the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, ensued. I used to be a customer of Interlog which was a great Toronto-area ISP that became part of Inter.net. All the people I know who were with Interlog and are now with Inter.net have had nothing but problems with accounting and such. Either Inter.net doesn't even know they're a customer and they're getting free Internet, or Inter.net doesn't believe they're a customer and refuses service. Moreover, I handle a web site that was provided by Inter.net until this summer. I had to jump through hoops of fire to get them to even realize who the heck we were and that we wanted to cancel our account. To this day I'm not even sure if they think we're a customer but one of the directors of the company's website offered to handle the situation. The last I heard was that he just didn't care what they thought; that he'd given proper notice of our account termination numerous times and that he expected them to send an invoice anyways. To sum it up, I'm more surprised that this woman is the first person trying to sue them rather than the fact she wants to sue them.
  • I got the perfect bounce message! "We're sorry, we at dipshit ISP couldn't send your message to the degenerate recipient looser because she is too stupid to use a computer or pay her bill. Yes we fucked up but its not our fault cuze our computer did it."

    Yes the ISP was at fault for the accounting error and they should have simply dismissed the payment crap because they screwed up and didn't notify her(its called customer service), BUT the bitch is stupid for conversing over email for important matters such as a new job. Ignorance maybe bliss but it doesn't give her the right to sue. If that were the case, I'd sue every damn fast food restaurant everytime they hand me a drink and it spills on my $15 crap khaki's from Walmart just because they got my nuts wet. If the job was that important to her then she should have made it a point to tell the dumb fuck who was going to hire her that she had a new email address.

    I don't want the government to step in and start passing laws that ruin the internet(like they do with everything else)....but I'm just an anarchist sum'bitch.
  • Use Common Sense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LighthouseJ ( 453757 )
    More people need to use common sense these days. Our laws are based on ethics and morality but when I hear about companies like this ISP basically putting in the TOS clauses that indemnify against every conceivable act (acts of God not withstanding) then I gotta wonder. If their accounting software is at fault, and I mean truly at fault, and she genuinely lost a $65,000 contract from it, then they have an obligation (not legally, but morally) to repair what happened. They messed up and they gotta pay.

    The problem here is that this company, like other companies with a contract try and use legal clauses to excuse them out of moral responsibilities because of "their own fault" and "shit happens" attitudes. We need Terms of Service that say basically "if we screw up, we claim responsibility and make repairs". People don't want to take the wrap for anything, they just want to pass the blame on to someone else.

    Another problem that arises is that customers don't shop around for the best term of service agreement that ISP's that service their area have. They don't have printouts and organize the agreements saying "ah ha, this one has expressed oral consent whereas this one has implied written consent". All they do is become influences by commercials, colleages and friends as to "what's the cheapest and best (as in least busy calls if by analog modem, or however you define best) ISP out there.

    Let me know what you think about this.
  • Whatever. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuiteSisterMary ( 123932 ) <slebrun AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @02:01PM (#4584433) Journal

    Yes, and if this woman's account had been 'killed' as she suggests, she'd be complaining that important emails got bounced, and if they'd just accepted them until she could call up with a new credit card number, she'd have gotten them, so it's all their fault, and they didn't have the right to deny service, and blah blah blah.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @02:34PM (#4584553) Journal
    The only part of this story that really bothers/concerns me is the idea that an ISP may suspend one's account, yet leave their mailbox active.

    I had this happen once with a local ISP I tried out for a couple months, and then decided not to use. (Luckily for me, I didn't keep them long enough for it to create BIG hassles for me.)

    They actually left my email account fully functional, but they simply deleted my password allowing me to establish a PPP connection with them. I had no idea they did this (assuming, of course, they'd delete my mailbox to save disk space and all), until months later. A few people were asking me why I never replied to their email.

    I finally realized they'd been sending mail to my old account all this time, and it wasn't bouncing back because it *was* delivered successfully, onto the server I no longer connected to.

    By this time, I'd almost forgotten my password, but managed to remember it - and connected to their mail server via my current ISP's connection, and pulled down well over 1500 emails that were piled up in there.

    I think everyone important knows my current address now, so I haven't worried about it again -- but for all I know, that account is *still* active on their system today!
  • by trance9 ( 10504 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @02:35PM (#4584560) Homepage Journal

    The ISP was holding her personal private data and not granting her access to it--that was the issue.

    They would have been OK if they had destroyed it.

    They would have been OK if they had bounced it.

    What they did was silently accept more email after the suspension but refuse to let her access it.

    The court is saying the email is her private personal data and she has an "access to information" right to see it.

    The ISP had every right to cancel her account. But why not bounce her email at that point?

    They kept her email because they believed that holding her personal private data hostage was a way to force her to settle the dispute.

    That's wrong.
  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @02:41PM (#4584579) Homepage Journal

    Most of the large ones do already, and some smaller ones do these, but it'd be nice if these became common practice:

    Your message has not been delivered because...

    • We do not have such a user. Maybe you made a typo? Have the wrong domain?

    • The user's mailbox is full. Please use alternative means to contact them -- and do everyone a favor and tell them to empty their inbox? Thanks.

    • The user's account is suspended temporarily -- please use other contact means.

    • User is having technical difficulties. They have provided forwarding information. Contact them at $(OTHER EMAIL/PHONE NUMBER/POSTAL ADDRESS).

  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @02:50PM (#4584621) Homepage Journal

    Too bad most people are totally oblivious to it, and most ISPs no longer bother to provide the service due to oblivion.

    Of course I'm talking about finger! Five years ago most people I dealt with had accounts at ISPs that provided finger services. Among other things, it'll tell you the last time they logged in and checked their email. Plus it is a nifty medium for figuring out what someone has been up to -- .plan, the original blog!

    If all accounts provided (opt-outable) finger information and people were used to checking it, maybe this woman wouldn't be out $65,000? And people could stop sending obnoxious messages to their whole address books telling them they're going on vacation?

    We seriously need to start a conspiracy to protect and revive UNIXisms.

  • Ok People... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by El Camino SS ( 264212 ) on Saturday November 02, 2002 @04:20PM (#4584947)
    Since when was missing an opportunity a reason to sue for $65K? I thought that you had to prove in a court of law that you had to have real and NOT PERCIEVED grievances that accounted to damages to collect in a court of law.

    What? She didn't have a phone? Can't phone someone? I know of precious few producers in any form that wait around for E-mail when they can call someone and get to the bottom of the work at that moment. Producers might spec on E-mail, but I don't ever remember hearing about them finalizing any details on anything other than the phone.

    A missed opportunity is not the fault of an ISP. If she had played her cards right, she should have used the telephone. And by the way, I am a journalist, and know a TON of freelance journalists. SO she might have been up for some Dixcovery Channel work. SO WHAT. If they want you for a gig, they will call you directly... that is the way it has always worked.
  • by jhines ( 82154 ) <john@jhines.org> on Saturday November 02, 2002 @05:30PM (#4585208) Homepage
    Rather than suspending the account, an account in a billing dispute should return the temporary condition of "disk full", for which a standard MTA will back off and retry.

    Since the condition of being out of space, or some other transient condition, isn't un-common, it won't be viewed as a problem, like this case was.

    And semi-intelligent MTA's can notify the sender, that their email is being delayed, so that they can check via alternative means like voice. An ISP that notified the intended receipient would be great, and best done once when the account is flipped to "temporarily unavailable".

    A problem that is resolved in a few hours would be transparent to the end users, other than the delay.

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