Skype’s Revealing Customer Policy

Apparently, getting what you paid for isn’t necessarily the name of the game any more. Although I was well aware of it at the time of purchase, no niggly smallprint or obligatory T&C which no one reads hid this caveat, it still comes as something of a surprise to be informed that something I paid for disappeared if I don’t use it. In my personal experience, Skype hasn’t done itself many favours in terms of maintaining a decent service. Certainly, it ‘does what it says on the tin’ the majority of the time, indeed it was only as I decided to test Skype’s SkypeOut feature (which worked handsomely, to the company’s credit) that I came across this email. This quote, in particular, amused:

You’re receiving this email around 30 days before your Skype Credit balance expires. Skype Credit expires 180 days after your last purchase or SkypeOut call. If you’re not using your balance we need to expire the credit sooner or later to comply with normal business accounting rules. Not very exciting, but true.

Even in today’s confused business world, where caveats and charges are hidden inexplicably from view, the very idea that Skype feels it obliged to rip its customers off in order to comply with ‘normal business accounting rules’ is staggering. From my meagre experience with mobile phone companies, this would appear to be anomalous to their standard practice. I have never been informed by PayPal that my account would be emptied because I haven’t used my funds, nor indeed have I come across such a statement from any of the other myriad of online services who use an online account system such as theirs.

Perhaps Skype would be well advised to comply with normal business operating rules instead of focusing on using cunning and thievery to earn themselves a few dollars. Take the much maligned Linux version of their program; the current official release still stands at version 1.2.0.18, released October 25, 2005. To their credit, the 8 months spent working up to the release of version 1.3 BETA on June 28th was not wasted, with full ALSA support, better chat features and numerous bugfixes, but this has not prevented issues with the ALSA sound system causing lockups: this is still just a BETA release. To suggest that this is symptomatic of Skype’s overall work ethic would be unfair; the Windows version of the program has come on leaps and bounds over the past 12 months, though it should be mentioned that many bugs at times seemed to have been put aside (such as memory leaks in the program, particularly in multi-user chats, or users in a person’s contact list disappearing sometimes at will) whilst new features such as video calls were scripted in.

No doubt being the most famous name in the game, Skype have found it difficult to maintain a lead, with sustained efforts to introduce all the features users demand whilst ensuring the package is solid and generally bug-free, and the service has maximum availability and quality. Nevertheless, it seems Skype’s “not very exciting” excuse for some small scale pilfering is an unnecessary blemish on the company’s otherwise fairly decent track record. Now, time to make some long distance calls to Tristan de Cunha…

Random Quote

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

— Oscar Wilde