This is a post about ethics, but not bioethics.
On my recent trip to Madagascar, I needed to get online at airports in order to do email and surf the web, in preparation for the planned bioethics and public health ethics workshop at the Institut National de Sante Publique and Communautaire
in Antananarivo. So I signed on for a 'pay as you go' plan with Boingo
, a company that enables you to gain access to internet hotspots at a price. You can find Boingo hotspots in airports from Malawi to Moscow to Jakarta. But the company, as I later found out, charges you outrageous prices for every access; has an app that facilitates without mentioning the precise financial implications of doing so (basically draining your bank card); intentionally makes unsubscribing to the service an ordeal, i.e. in my case a greater-than-one-hour wait on the customer service line. I was finally able to cancel my account, after the customer service representative offered that I pay 'only' about half of the bill that I was smacked with. So they made a juicy profit out of services I hardly used, and I am not alone in this
. I wonder how those in lower-income countries, with undoubtedly less resources to extract themselves from the practices of dodgy companies, fare in such cases.
Amazingly, the company is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. If a research institution was found to treat research participants as Boingo treats its customers, heads would likely roll. I guess this is a difference between research ethics and business ethics: the former still clings to old-fashioned ideals like respect for persons, transparency and accountability. The latter is happier with 'buyer beware.'
Well, I feel somewhat better now. Back to global bioethics issues soon ...
Labels: Boingo, ethics, ripoff, wireless providers