Systematic overcharging at Boingo?

Boingo is a roaming wifi service in the US (and beyond); you sign up, they charge your credit card each month for $9.99, and you can access their broad network of wifi providers within a given geographic region.

On my last trip to the US, I signed up for Boingo at the New York airport, and used it once or twice during my stay in Atlanta. My intention was to use it for the single month containing my two-week trip.

When I returned to Europe a few weeks later, I tried to cancel my Boingo subscription, and that’s when the fun (not) started.

I emailed [email protected], and received an HTML email response acknowledging my request, and trying to offer me a 50% discount for three months to stay. That offer was followed by some text saying, “If you still want to cancel, click this link.”

Clicking that link lead to a page requesting my name, email address and Boingo username. Completing and submitting the form lead to a “Thank you” confirmation screen, containing a note saying I’d receive an email confirmation at the end of the current billing cycle.

I immediately suspected that I was going to continue to be charged. Why? Most decent services would immediately send you an email confirming your cancellation. By waiting until the next billing cycle, there’s a chance I may have forgotten my cancellation, and not notice the $9.99 charge amongst all my other credit card charges.

And that’s exactly what happened. I got busy and didn’t reconcile my credit card statement for two months.

So today, three months later, I notice the Boingo charge on my August statement. I call their customer support to complain, and they claim there’s no evidence that I ever cancelled my subscription.

Of course! Now it all makes sense — if they don’t immediately send you a confirmation email, the only evidence you could have is perhaps a screenshot of the web page confirmation.

While on the phone with the customer support agent, I went through the cancellation form again and confirmed what I suspected — that the “Thank you” screen doesn’t have any identifying information; so even a screenshot wouldn’t be evidence.

The agent offered to cancel my account, starting next month. I got quite angry, and insisted that I cancelled three months ago. She again repeated, “What evidence do you have of that?”

I walked her through the cancellation process while on the phone, and then asked her to tell me what evidence I could have collected?

At that point, she put me on hold to contact someone in Level-2 support. After some time, she returned saying they would refund the past three months.

This kind of behavior makes me so angry — it appears to be a process designed to systematically result in overcharging customers past their cancellation date. I will never use their service again. Hopefully others considering the use of their service will find this blog first.

21 thoughts on “Systematic overcharging at Boingo?”

  1. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience in such detail, Matt. It greatly helps us to pinpoint what went wrong for you and how we can try to make things right between us. Rest assured we would never, ever design a process to overcharge our customers! We strive every day to give our customers the VIP treatment and provide them with the best Wi-Fi service in the world. Additionally, we sincerely believe that even negative feedback can only help us continue to improve the experience for our customers, so thank you — we really appreciate it.

    According to the subscription cancellation steps you outlined above, you submitted your request exactly right. For even faster service, please visit boingo.com, click “Visit My Account”, and then select “Cancel My Subscription” to submit your request to us right away. We’re puzzled as to why we didn’t receive your request the first time, and we’re sincerely sorry that we missed it. We hope you’ll accept a $25 Amazon.com Gift Card with our apologies for the oversight. Please email [email protected], and we’ll send your gift card code straight-away.

    When our customers submit cancellation requests, we typically make this change effective at the end of the billing cycle, as you noted. Here’s why: Since you already paid for a full month of Wi-Fi, we want to make sure you can continue to enjoy the service you’ve purchased until the end of the billing cycle. If customers wish to cancel their account effective immediately, we’re happy to make this change for you. Just contact us by phone, email, Twitter, or Facebook 24/7, and note that you’d like your account closed right away. We’ll help, pronto.

    We’re also sorry to hear that you had a negative experience with our customer care team. In the typical scenario, they would have a record of your cancellation request and account changes, so there were definitely some out-of-the-ordinary circumstances at play here. Regardless, we’ll be sure to work with our customer care supervisors to improve calls like the one you experienced.

    Again, thanks so much for your valuable time and feedback. I’ll be on the lookout for your email. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to make things right, and as always, the privilege to help keep you connected on the go.

    Warm Regards,

    Lauren Sanyal Manager, Customer Communications Boingo Wireless

  2. I just had the same exact issue and think Boingo is systematically overcharging people. I cancelled on the website having done so right after Thanksgiving, and lo and behold, I have a $9.95 charge to my Paypal account.

  3. Happy to help with that, Tony! Rest assured we would never try to overcharge our customers. We’ll investigate what happened and try to make things right between us. Please email [email protected], and we’ll take care of you, pronto.

    Warm Regards, Lauren Sanyal Manager, Customer Communications Boingo Wireless

  4. Hi Lauren,

    Without any disrespect intended, I hope you can understand that friendly responses mean little, when no action is taken. I wrote this article on October 10. It’s more than two months later, and your team is still “investigating” why I haven’t received my refund yet.

    Regards, Matt

  5. Just a quick update — Lauren (commenter from above) was able to investigate my account, and get a refund issued.

  6. Te same story. They intentionally and systematically overcharge accounts. I subscribed for one month of Europe Plus on November 16 2012, paid $34.95 and used the service for one week in Vienna, Austria. In the first week of December I tried to cancel account, got a link to switch PayAsGo and announcement that in the end of billing period the account will be switched to PayAsGo. On December 16 2012 my account has been charged again $34.95.

  7. Hello, Yuri! We’re sorry to hear that you’ve had a negative experience with us. Unfortunately, we don’t offer a one-month only account — it sounds like you inadvertently subscribed to our Boingo Europe Plus plan, which bills you $34.95 each month. I know that our Customer Care team has been in touch with you, explained what happened, took care of your requested account changes, and provided you with a refund. Please let us know if there’s anything more we can do to help!

    1. Yuri, as far as I know, Boingo do not offer any one-month-only service. They offer a month-by-month subscription service. When I was in the US, I signed up for the service, used it for a week, and then canceled it. My problem was that they didn’t actually cancel the service. But in your case, it seems like you thought you were signing up for only a month of service.

      1. Hi Matt.

        I think what happens is that Lauren’s company systematically obfuscates their actual T&C for signing up so that users purchase recurring plans instead of single use passes which they believe they are purchasing. (This happened to me). This is combined major difficulties cancelling their subscription via the internet or phone line.

        When I googled ‘problem cancelling boingo’ there were several significant hits. It looks like there have been similarly dissatisfied customers from 2008 to now.

        I think this is why Yuri sounded so disgruntled. Lauren is clearly motivated and effective, and seems friendly. She also posted numerous replies and helped to fix a whole bunch of problems on the Yelp listing for Boingo HQ in LA.

        However, smiles and warm greetings wear thin when there has clearly been no change to the manipulative business model for years. That Boingo has a direct vested interest in their inefficient corporate processes (ongoing payments by users who want to cancel) has not escaped my attention.

        As a coda: I’ve emailed Boingo support to cancel my account. If it gets to late November without any formal notification I’m going to ask my credit card to reject further charges, and if Boingo enquire about further funds after that I will be referring them to your country’s stopfraud.gov agency.

        Glad you got your stuff sorted out, wish me luck! HT

  8. Same here, moreover, I can’t remember my username nor password. My card has been charged since last January when I subscribed to the service just to make one skype call in a visit to Chicago .Seems that I have no choice but cancel my credit card and issue a new one !! What a punishment for using Boingo for a day !!

  9. Hany,

    I would suggest reaching out to Lauren Sanyal (here in the comments). She was very helpful in getting my situation resolved.

  10. I have similar experience.

    On May 6, at Chicago airport, I opted for Boingo AsYouGo, for one day, for $6.95. Today, on May 8, I received another charge from them of $7.95, even though I did not opt for it anywhere. I am back home in India and have no reason to use their plan when my office wi-fi is supporting me.

    I looked for an option to cancel my account on their site, but did not find any such option.

    Boingo, Please refund my money and cancel my account.

    Pradyumn Sharma

  11. We can help with this! We’ll be happy to look into your account, find out exactly what happened, and try to make things right for you. Email [email protected], and we’ll work to resolve your issue.

  12. Hi!

    I do have just same experience. I got an answer after cancellation: ” Dear PEKKA,

    As requested, your account has been closed, effective 03/22/2013.

    We’re sorry to see you go, and we’d love to know how we can improve. If you’ll answer a few questions about your experience (it’ll only take a minute, literally), we’ll send you a free Wi-Fi Access Pass you can use to get online at any of our flagship hotspots.

    Thanks for giving Boingo the opportunity to keep you connected on the go, and we hope to see you back again soon.

    Best Regards, Yolanda Kline Director of Customer Care Boingo Wireless boingo.com ” Still there was a billing about 10 $ (or £) + taxes Jun 6th.

    Should I change my Visa- account or what?

    Pekka Muhojoki Rovaniemi, the town of Father Christmas FINLAND

  13. It seems that Boingo is not very careful in explaining the terms or their subscriptions. I recently subscribed to a pay as you go plan: turns out if you connect two things (computer+phone) you pay twice. Maybe clear in hindsight, but they should note it explicitly. Also, turns out that if you login again the next day they charge you automatically with no prior notice – again not outright criminal but unexpected on my part. To their advantage, once I called and complained they removed the charges for my phone (I didn’t ask for reimbursement on the second day as it was my intention to use the network). I should just say that they said they will remove the charge – I didn’t check yet whether they actually did.

  14. Payed 4.95 for one hour at JFK only to discover that I was charged 4.95 and then some random charge of 8.50. I will simply go straight to my credit Card provider and block payment…I never agreed to pay more then 4.95

  15. Same happened to me. They advertised service for $ 4.98/mo. On day one they charged correct amount, and on the next day they took $105.30 from my PayPal account.

    Online – you cannot cancel. On the phone – “please call later, our system is updating itself” 🙂 Real scam. Hopefully PayPal refunded full amount after I filled a claim. Awful that they work with these scam morons, but good that they at least make a refund.

  16. I´m having the exact same experience it´s just that my first billing was on saturday march 3rd for an hour of internet in the new york airport, wich I purchased for 4,95$ and today I got an e-mail saying that they´ve charged me with 7,95$ extra dollars, why??? I thought this service was safe and now i´m frankly scared because I used my boyfriends credit card and he´s about to go and cancel his card. After reading all of this statements is that my safest bet not to be overcharged?

    I´m going through the cancellation process right now and issuing a complaint through customer service online. Is it enough or do I have to make a long distance call also?

  17. On Oct 18, at Chicago airport, I opted for Boingo AsYouGo, for one day, for $4.95. Today, on Oct 21, I received another charge from them of $6.95, even though I did not opt for it anywhere. I am back home in Taiwan and have no reason to use their plan when my office wi-fi is supporting me.

    I looked for an option to cancel my account on their site, but did not find any such option.

    Boingo, Please refund my money and cancel my account.

    Andy Hung

  18. The same [email protected]#$ continues today. This happened to my wife (July 2015). Attempts to cancel on Boingo’s website result in some system “unable to process request” error message. Oh how convenient for boingo! I myself am a 20+ veteran software engineer at a fortune 100 (within the top 10) company specializing in enterprise business systems. Just interacting with the Boingo website smells of intentional duplicity and profit mining. Even changing the user’s password barked an error. Complete junk. If a business needs to rely upon dubious practices to profit, such a business deserves not to exist.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?