It took me almost 3 years to get over the sting of GISOLs corrupt business practices but since they are apparently still in business, I have decided to post my experience in case anyone is considering using GISOL for web hosting.
I signed up for GISOLs personal web hosting service since February 2003 to host my personal website. I paid an average of $8 per month since 2003. My problems with GISOL started in March 2008.
From March 8, 2008 to April 3, 2008, I submitted one online request, three trouble tickets and one email to GISOL attempting to renew my domain name with no resolution.
On April 3, 2008 at 12:10 PM MST,I received an email from email@example.com stating that my account has been suspended.
On April 3, 2008 at approximately 2:30 PM MST, I called GISOL (323-924-1109) at their request. I spoke to Brian. This phone conversation lasted about 10-15 minutes. The following are the bullet points from this conversation:
• Brian told me that my account was in redemption because my domain name had expired.
• Brian said that he had to close my account and open a new account.
• Brian said that this was the only way I would be allowed to continue using the domain name my domain name and not be charged the approximately $500 normally charged when a domain name expires.
• Brian said that GISOL was offering a special on their unlimited web hosting package that would cost me less than my current package. Brian offered me the Windows Web Hosting Unlimited for $7.95 / month with a free domain name, 6 months free and free step up for one year for the new account. I was told the total cost would be ~$40 ($7.95 * 12 = 95.40 - $59.70 = $35.70) for one year. This included renewing my domain name and the new domain name that he would set up for me in the interim. I was told that I would receive rebate paperwork in the mail and an email with my new account information.
• After confirming that the commitment was only one year, I agreed to purchase this personal web hosting package. I did not fill out any order forms online. Brian took all the information he needed to process the order over the phone (although most of my information was already on file since I was an existing customer).
• While still on the phone with Brian, he gave me a web address to enter into a browser window. This web address took me directly to GISOL’s Service Contract. The Service Contract was the only thing on the web page. The website address was www.gisol.com/policies/sign with an encrypted key following the word sign (most likely identifying me as the customer). At the bottom of this Service Contract, there was a signature panel. I entered my name, email address and signed the contract using my mouse.
• I signed this Service Contract as it related to the personal web hosting package I agreed to purchase while on the phone with Bryan. This is the first time I was asked to sign a Service Contract with GISOL.
• I did not sign anything that showed the web hosting package I agreed to purchase or cost.
On April 3, 2008 at 2:35 PM MST, I received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org stating that they received and processed my payment of $1,798.20 for a 36 month package for the new account.
On April 4, 2008 at 12:18 AM MST, I received an email from email@example.com stating that my account had been resumed.
Again, I never agreed to purchase business web hosting for $1798.20; GISOL charged my credit card for a service I did not order. GISOL claimed that on the Service Contract I signed “Directly above the signature panel, it reads: By Signing Below, I Agree to Pay$1798.20 to GISOL Inc. and abide by the Terms and Conditions set forth by this Service Contract”. IT DID NOT SAY THIS.
I made several attempts to get this resolved with GISOL directly but GISOL would not return any of my phone calls or emails. Once I received the email from GISOL saying that my credit card was charged $1798.20 on April 3, 2008, I emailed GISOL seven times. I submitted two separate trouble tickets. I called numerous times but was never able to be connected with the billing department. On April 9, 2008, I sent a certified letter which GISOL received April 14, 2008 at 10:10 am. On April 16, 2008, I submitted a complaint to the Better Business Bureau. On July 7, 2008, I sent a certified letter which GISOL received July 10, 2008 at 9:55 AM. GISOL never once responded to get this resolved or even to explain the charge.
On April 4, 2008, I contacted VISA to attempt to cancel the charge but was told that I needed to wait until the transaction posted and then dispute the charge. I put my account on hold at this time. I was able to start the dispute process on April 13, 2008.
GISOL did respond to the VISA dispute making several false claims:
1. GISOL claimed that I was contacted my GISOL’s Order Verification Department after my phone call with Brian at GISOL. In this alleged phone call, GISOL claims
• The agent explained that he could not process this new order for a Personal Web Hosting Package because A) I was a current customer with 2 previous accounts and B) I was not using hosting services for personal use as defined in section 16 and 19 of GISOL’s Policies/Service Contract.
• The agent explained that if I wanted to continue hosting with GISOL under the correct package I would need to go to www.gisol.com and click on the HOSTING tab, select Business Hosting, choose the platform I needed and fill out the order form.
• The letter claimed that after the call was terminated, I went online and filled out the Business Package order.
• The letter than claimed that while speaking with the agent, I agreed to the rate and the agent directed me to gisol.com > Business Hosting to place an order (while still on the phone with GISOL).
• The letter claims I completed the full order process for Business Web Hosting online (while still on the phone with GISOL).
• The new account was then immediately created (while still on the phone with GISOL).
I was never contacted by GISOL’s Order Verification Department. This alleged phone call would have to have taken place between April 3, 2008 at 12:10 PM and April 3, 2008 at 2:35 PM because this was when I was first notified that my account was suspended and when I received email notification of the $1798.20 charge. My phone records show no incoming calls from California in April 2008 and GISOL would not provided (a) phone records indicating the date and time of this call, (b) a recording of the conversation, (c) a name of the GISOL employee that called, nor (d) the phone number that GISOL called to contact me.
2. GISOL claimed that I violated my Service Contract with GISOL by having two accounts open at the same time and because I was not using the site for personal use.
I was told by GISOL that I must close my old account and open a new account; This was the only way I would be allowed to continue to use my domain name. I was not given any other options. This was GISOL’s policy. I did not request to open two accounts and according to my conversations with Brian, the one account should have been closed as soon as the new account was opened.
In regards to my domain name not being used for personal use, the site included pictures of my daughter and pictures of a pumpkin carving contest my husband and I have each fall. GISOL stated that “the customer is promoting pumpkin-carving events and GISOL defines that as a Business as per our policies.” To be absolutely clear, GISOL said that because I have pictures of my friends carving pumpkins at my house I am promoting pumpkin carving and this makes my site a business website.
3. GISOL claimed that I filled out any order forms for business web hosting online.
I did not fill out any forms online. I had been a customer since 2003 so GISOL has most of my information on file already. Any additional information that was needed to process the April 3, 2008 purchase of personal web hosting was taken over the phone by Brian.
Because providing tangible evidence that I did or did not fill out forms online is impossible, I was able to show that GISOL’s online order process does not include signing a Service Contract or a Billing Statement as they claim and therefore, I could not have signed the Service Contract or a Billing Statement during the online order process thereby discrediting GISOL’s entire claim that I filled out forms online.
In their dispute, GISOL outlines the following as the steps to order Business Hosting:
(a) Gisol.com > Business Hosting
(b) Picked the Service Platform
(c) Chose the *3 year prepaid $49.95
(d) Next page was provided with an Order Summary
(e) Filled out the rest of the information
(f) Checked the I Accepted checkbox acknowledging that I have read through,
agrees to and accepts our Policies
(g) Viewed the Billing Statement that read “By signing Below, I Agree to Pay
$1798.20 to GISOL
(h) Clicked Next to continue with the process
i. Directed to a Service Contract/Policies
ii. Scroll down to the bottom of the page where I was required to fill in … Name, Email Address and provide a Signature accepting and agreeing to the Billing Statement and the Service Contract/Policies Directly above the signature panel, it reads: By Signing Below, I Agree to Pay $1798.20 to GISOL Inc. and abide by the Terms and Conditions set forth by this Service Contract”.
This text is taken directly from GISOLs dispute letter. However, I went to www.gisol.com on June 21, 2008 at 11:15 pm and again on August 18, 2008 at 9:20 pm and followed the prompts to order a Business Web Hosting package. I used fake information so that I could go through the process to see if it was the same as GISOL claims. It is not. The most noticeable differences were:
a. There is no Billing Statement that reads “By signing Below, I Agree to Pay $1798.20 to GISOL. In fact, there is no Billing Statement at all. There is a line that reads $1798.20 will be billed to the MasterCard card for XXXX. However, there is nothing to sign at all and there is nothing even remotely like the Billing Statement GISOL provided as evidence that I agree to pay the $1798.20.
b. There is no I Accept checkbox. There is a line that says “By submitting this form you agree to and have read our Terms of Service.” The Terms of Service link opens http://www.gisol.com/policies/current.html. This contains the Service Contract. This is a different web address than the example of a signature on a Service Contract in the original dispute (http://www.gisol.com/policies/sign......).
c. The Service Contract cannot be signed. There is no section at the bottom of the page to fill in … Name, Email Address and provide a Signature accepting and agreeing to the Billing Statement and the Service Contract/Policies. There is no signature panel so there is no line above it that reads: By Signing Below, I Agree to Pay $1798.20 to GISOL Inc. and abide by the Terms and Conditions set forth by this Service Contract”.
d. There is only a Process Order button available on this page. Clicking Process Order will complete the order per the website.
In addition, GISOL forged my signature on the Billing Statement they provided as proof that I agreed to pay $1798.20. The first time I ever saw the Billing Statement was when I received a copy with the VISA Dispute letter. I did not sign this Billing Statement, I did not agree to its terms and I did not authorize GISOL to copy my signature. The signature on the Billing Statement is a copy of the signature on the Service Contract. These signatures are identical. GISOL explained this by stating that “GISOL’s system automatically printed the signature on each document.” GISOL claims that the Billing Statement and Service Contract are “click through” and that is what allows them to copy my signature. This is not the case. Their website does not even include a Billing Statement.
GISOL committed forgery as defined by the California Penal Code Section 470-483.5.
The California Penal Code Section 470-483.5 reads
(d) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts or offers to pass, as true and genuine, any of the following items, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited, is guilty of forgery: any check, bond, bank bill, or note, cashier's check, traveler's check, money order, post note, draft, any controller's warrant for the payment of money at the treasury, county order or warrant, or request for the payment of money, receipt for money or goods, bill of exchange, promissory note, order, or any assignment of any bond, writing obligatory, or other contract for money or other property, contract, due bill for payment of money or property, receipt for money or property, passage ticket, lottery ticket or share purporting to be issued under the California State Lottery Act of 1984, trading stamp, power of attorney, certificate of ownership or other document evidencing ownership of a vehicle or undocumented vessel, or any certificate of any share, right, or interest in the stock of any corporation or association, or the delivery of goods or chattels of any kind, or for the delivery of any instrument of writing, or acquaintance, release or discharge of any debt, account, suit, action, demand, or any other thing, real or personal, or any transfer or assurance of money, certificate of shares of stock, goods, chattels, or other property whatever, or any letter of attorney, or other power to receive money, or to receive or transfer certificates of shares of stock or annuities, or to let, lease, dispose of, alien, or convey any goods, chattels, lands, or tenements, or other estate, real or personal, or falsifies the acknowledgment of any notary public, or any notary public who issues an acknowledgment knowing it to be false; or any matter described in subdivision (b).
It is also important to note that an electronic signature must be logically associated with a contract in order to be in compliance with the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act:
Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). Section 2.8 states "Electronic signature" means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.
The Billing Statement and Service Contract are not logically associated. The Billing Statement is not part of the order process at all and the Service Contract does not reference the Billing Statement.
On September 30, 2008, VISA agreed with me that this was fraudulent charge and I was not required to pay GISOL the $1798.20.
In addition to filing this dispute with VISA, I submitted a complaint to the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau on April 16, 2008. I also filed a complaint with the Denver Police Department on July 17, 2008. The case number is 08-5008926. On August 21, 2008, I filed a complaint with Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
This was not a simple miscommunication between GISOL and me; GISOL has a history of cheating Customers out of money. There are numerous links to consumer complaint websites documenting such behavior. What GISOL is doing is illegal, end of story.