Monday, December 19, 2011

Ethically dubious business practices at Boingo

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: , , ,


Blogger stephenCollines said...

The reality is that health care costs have been on a steady rate, high growth over the past two decades.


9:45 AM  
Blogger she said...

Hi Stuart,

As a representative of Boingo, it pains me to hear we have been a source of frustration for you. Sorry.

I understand you've been emailing with my colleague, Lauren. As she mentioned, thank you for taking the time to provide feedback. It's useful data in our continuing efforts to improve Boingo's Wi-Fi service.

You're right that paying for Boingo Wi-Fi can add up with our AsYouGo plan, which charges per connection. That plan is best for folks who only need Internet every once in awhile. Sounds like your recent trip to Madagascar required more online time. Our Boingo Europe Plus plan for $34.95/month would have been a more economical option. It gives you unlimited access all over Europe on two devices, and you can cancel anytime. Perhaps we could have done a better job presenting your available options based on your travel needs at the time of signup?

We do understand, thanks to your feedback, that we should improve the plan description for AsYouGo to emphasize the access charge per device, per location. Those changes are rolling out imminently. Thank you.

If I may, I'd like to respectfully clarify the Boingo app's behavior. There are plenty of improvements in the works, but one app feature we designed from inception is the user action (button) required to connect. Even if you're in a free hotspot connecting through the app, you should not be charged. And if the hotspot is not free, the app notifies you of charges.

If any of the hotspots listed on your Boingo bill were free locations (see Lauren’s email), then we erroneously charged you. If that was the case, we'll correct it immediately. Our test engineers would also investigate why the app/hotspot didn't function properly. Please do let us know about the hotspots outlined on your bill.

Finally, I'm dismayed to hear you waited over an hour on our customer care line. Our standard is a 5-minute average wait time; we fell way below standards in your experience. I'm sorry, and I'm disappointed in my team. This will serve as our reminder to step it up.

It's a bummer to lose you as a customer. But you've imparted good lessons to us. My colleague, Lauren, and I aim to continue helping you as much as possible.


3:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The information database on the extraction of DMT is within your reach. Discover how experts build a list of relevant references for their investigate on DMT extraction

5:56 AM  
Blogger jenie watson said...

Thanks for the helpful tips. I hadn’t thought about mind-mapping vs. outlining, but it makes sense. This will get me started!

Nifty Tips

2:03 AM  
Blogger Mayur Jain said...

This website for commodity market of india.Today intraday trading calls with support , LME & live price charts of gold. Silver, copper,zinc,crude etc.this site online provides latest news on commodities.we provide intraday trading recommendation in Base metal, Energy and Precious metals.This site provide for traders trading in all the segments of MCX. Where the calls are prepared by qualitative analysis or various technicalities as well data.
indian mcx market news

7:39 AM  
Blogger Praneet Chawla said...

You have done a great job of expressing your views.
mcx copper tips

7:10 AM  
Blogger Somya Panchal said...

free share tipshelpful tips given in your blogs always . this article is also so much informative.

12:55 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home