Acoustic Mac

A Month of VeriSign Customer Service

Beverly Woods - 2002.07.02 - Tip Jar

I've been doing a little more Web design work lately. One customer asked me to help her with her site after it was already up, and the designer who had been working on it was unable to resolve some display and layout problems. Fortunately, solving those problems was straightforward.

Issues with the domain name registration have proved far more complex to deal with.

When I looked up her domain registration information, I found that her name was nowhere in it. The Web hosting company she used had registered her domain in their own name. Not a particularly good situation; although they did tell her she was free to move her site, it seemed only right that she should be the registrant of record.

Looking around for hints on how to deal with this type of situation, I saw some rather disturbing information on some websites. One advised that when this happens, you may need to hire a lawyer. Another said that there is nothing illegal about hosting companies registering domain names as their own and then selling them to the original would-be registrant at exorbitant prices.

Fortunately, in this case the hosting company was willing to transfer the registration to my friend's name. Not everyone is so lucky, so my first piece of advice to potential domain name owners is: Make sure you're going to be the listed registrant.

After various negotiations and delays, we succeeded in getting a signed, notarized copy of the current Registrant Name Change Agreement, all ready to be faxed to VeriSign, where the domain name was registered.

Ah, I thought, our troubles are almost over. True, Network Solutions (now absorbed into VeriSign, as I understand it) had lost a fax the last time I had to do something with them, but once the fax was sent again, everything went smoothly, if a bit slowly.

Accordingly I faxed the four page document to the fax number listed for "Regular" service on this issue. "Expedited service" mentions (but does not exactly promise) 48-hour turnaround and costs $199; "Regular" is supposed to take 7-10 days and costs $15.

A week passed. Still no change in the Whois listing, and no bill for the change on my credit card. Next morning, I called VeriSign customer service to see what was up. "What number was that sent from? . . . I have no record . . . no, no indication that we ever received such a fax. Why don't you send it again?"

"How will I know that you've gotten the second fax?"

"Call us tomorrow, and we'll tell you if it's come in."

Fair enough, I thought. I sent the fax again.

The next morning I called. I will note here that in this and the subsequent calls to VeriSign, I never got the same customer service representative twice. Some of the people I spoke to sounded like native English speakers, but a number of them had accents that aroused my curiosity. "Can I ask where in the world you are located?" I ask one. "This is the Manila office," he says. No wonder he can't find the fax I sent to a number thousands of miles away. "What number was that sent from? . . . no, well, I can't tell you that it has come in, and I can't tell you that it hasn't come in. I don't know. I'll find out for you and send you an email either way."

I keep being reminded of government press conferences: "We can neither confirm nor deny...."

Next day: no email. I call again.

"Yes, it says here that you are going to fax again."

"I did fax again."

"When?"

"36 hours ago."

"Let me put you on hold (distorted Vivaldi for several minutes) . . . No, I can't tell you that we have received it, but I can't tell you that we haven't . . . Yes, I understand you've been trying to get this through for a while, and I will put a note to speed it up when we do receive it."

"Well how will I know when you have received it?"

"I will email you either way, for sure, by the end of today."

Next day: no email. I call again.

"What number did you send that from? . . . Twice? No, I have no record from either date . . . Let me ask you this: what number have you been faxing it to?"

I tell her the number.

"Why are you using that number? Where did you ever get that number?"

"It's the one on your form, version 4.0, downloaded from your website two weeks ago and still listed on your website as current."

"Well, no matter where you got the number, I suggest you send it again, to a different number, our main fax number. That way we'll be sure to get it, although it will take a few more days to go through at that number . . . Yes, I will try to speed it up when it gets in."

So I fax a third time. I call the next day.

"You sent it to (the number the last person gave me)? Who told you to do that? No wonder it takes so long, if you use the wrong information . . . tell you what, for high level customer service, because you're a WorldNIC customer, you should call the following customer service number."

He dictates a number, and I write it down. Only after I hang up do I realize that this is the same number I just called to get the guy who just gave me the "better" number.

I call again and get a different rep.

"Where did you send the fax? . . . You should send it to (the number on the form) . . . "

"I have sent it there, twice, once two weeks ago and again a week ago, could you please look and see if you have any record of receiving it?"

"Can I put you on hold? (distorted pop music . . . ) Oh, yes, I do see, you sent it . . . hmm . . . weeks ago, but I do request, we will need substantially more time to do this . . . yes, I know you sent it a long time ago, and it should have been done by last week . . . I will send a note to that group to ask . . . call again any time, and have a great day."

Another rep tells me that the registrant name change department is backed up and I can expect the change to take a month to go through.

"A month! Is there any way to get it to happen faster?"

"Yes, if you pay the $199, I'm sure we can have it for you in two."

Which leaves me wondering: Is this customer service or information highway robbery?

The change does take a month to go through, almost to the day. I am notified in duplicate that it has gone through. I am also billed in duplicate.

I call VeriSign. The representative agrees that I was billed twice and tells me that someone will call me back "in 3 to 5 days" to see whether they should "investigate" the possibility of giving me a refund for the second charge.

"You can't just give me a refund?"

"No, that's not the way we do things."

I begin to sense a pattern, and it's not a pretty one. A Google search reveals many customer complaints about VeriSign's business practices and customer service.

Is this any way to run a domain registration business? LEM

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