Monday, July 22, 2013

Weird charges from Boingo

I need to use Boingo (a wifi service provider) in Newark airport for about five minutes on Thursday and the same again in three weeks.

 On the advice of a frequent flyer friend I decided set up an account in advance, to avoid having to fiddle around with credit cards and other annoyances at the airport. The online registration process seemed easy. You simply went to their website and chose one of three service options and paid for the option you chose in the next page.
Here's the options page:

Needless to say I chose "Boingo Unlimited". The "as you go" option has the look of something that could get expensive very quickly ($10 and $20 per connection??). The "global" option was more than I needed for two 5-minute connections in Newark.

On I proceeded and chose to pay with PayPal. This move was an excellent idea, as Paypal sent me a receipt by email immediately. Somehow, mysteriously, inexplicably, I was now paying for the Global option. $59 a month!!!

 Needless to say, I immediately opened a dispute with Paypal and got on the telephone to Boingo, whose employee bowed and grimaced and apologized. I would be transferred to the "Unlimited" option and the balance of the $59 would be returned to my Paypal account.

But this leaves me with a really bad taste in my mouth. I know I didn't choose the $59 plan. I greatly fear that this is happening to hundreds, maybe thousands, of people around the world. Many of these people will pay with a credit card and won't see the huge charges until their next statement. Many others will be paying on corporate cards and the charges will go unremarked for months.

One last thing troubles me. Why does wifi in the terminals cost so much? Why can't the Port Authority provide free or at-cost wifi? Boston can do it (and does). I'd even be happy to use an advertising-supported service. But existing costs for commercial airport wifi are outrageous, and maybe even (as I found!) duplicitous.

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