Saturday, April 10, 2010

Warhammer's Billing Debacle

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) recently had a little 'oops' moment with their billing system that caused many players to be billed several times for their monthly subscription.  Some players were charged for over $500 dollars.  Normally this is an isolated issue, but the most recent update on the Warhammer Herald confirms it was widespread:
As you may be aware, recently some customer accounts were billed multiple times unintentionally. We regret any difficulty this event may have caused you, and we remain dedicated to resolving the issue with our vendors and customers.
This is about as bad as it could get for WAR, a game still considered down and out in the MMO industry.  WAR has enjoyed some success thanks to their endless free trial and I suspect that is where the majority of their new players come from.  This faux pas won't inspire anyone interested in subscribing to trust Mythic with their credit cards and not everyone is willing to enter game time cards every month to keep on playing.

However, I really don't want to talk about WAR right now.  More interesting to me is how rarely we see such a problem as this.  Off the top of my head I thought about the things I have on "set and forget" payment methods online:

1. eBay fees
2. Phone bill
3. Cable and Internet bill
4. Netflix
5. Donations to favorite websites

None of these has ever had a billing issue with multiple charges.  And if one did, I doubt it'd be to the magnitude that was seen with the WAR charges.

Also, I wonder how long it would take me to notice.  I certainly wouldn't see it right away as I use credit cards mainly and my credit limit is high.  At the end of the month, I would notice on my credit card statements, but if it wasn't several identical charges I may glance over it.

This is a wake up call I guess to online payment methods and keeping an eye on charges.  It's easy to say "its your own fault for not paying attention", but how many of these services make it an inconvenience to customers who do NOT use automated online payments?  To me, its half customer ignorance and half trends towards automated systems in favor of human powered systems.

With automation comes consistency and speed, which reduces some errors.  With reduction in error, comes reduction in support requirements.   This really puts everyone in a bad place, because when it comes to money its not acceptable to hear "it'll take 3 days to fix" which leads to lost customers.  Yet, the costs to have better support isn't justified for the 99% of error-free time.

I'm wandering now.  I'll forget all of this once the WAR billing fiasco is over and done with.  But just maybe I will pay more attention to the next credit card bill or when my wife is reviewing it, I won't just go "sounds right to me honey!" before staring back at the computer screen.

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