Hosting 'dead' Sites

Discussion in 'General Business Forum' started by Parrot Hosting, Jun 23, 2011.

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  1. Parrot Hosting

    Parrot Hosting UKBF Enthusiast

    441 87
    I have a small quantity of 'dead' sites where the client has lost interest and not paid, lost their business and/or just walked away from their fees (not substantial, but they add up if there is enough of them).

    The domains are still valid because until recently we had a policy of automatic renewal and then charged the client (Now its auto-billing, so not our problem).

    I'm interested in the community's views on what should happen. As the client has not paid the domain renewal fees and also not the hosting fees would you:
    • kill the site leaving a suspended notice up
    • put google advertising on the site
    • leave as is in the hope the client resumes interest
    • sell the site and domain to recover money owed
    • sue for the money owed
    what are people opinions (and i'm not looking for a critique of anything - just a viewpoint) :):D:D
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: Parrot Hosting Member since: Jan 7, 2011
  2. Paul Norman

    Paul Norman UKBF Legend

    3,535 1,216
    Hi Les. This is, I presume, a common problem amongst those that provide web hosting in volume. I have certainly seen it. The amounts are, as you say, small, but it is untidy, and they do add up!

    My prefered option is to make two reasonably robust attempts to track down the customer. Often, the response is rather vague - people actually seem to forget they had a website built! Even if it is sending them regular enquiries!

    By a month after renewal date, if I do not have clear instructions to continue (by clear instructions to continue I mean money in the bank!), the site is taken down, and archived. If the customer wishes to restore it, that is ok on receipt of money, although I do believe an admin fee would be reasonable at this stage.
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: Paul Norman Member since: Apr 8, 2010
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  3. lockyer

    lockyer Verified Business ✔️
    Full Member

    1,216 198
    May I suggest you update your terms of busines with a section specifically dedicated to this subject, with clear protocols on this matter, and what the related charges will be. Just to cover your arse.
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: lockyer Member since: Oct 27, 2008
  4. lari

    lari UKBF Newcomer

    29 2
    I agree that this should probably be covered in the terms of business for all new customers.

    If you're considering Google ads, you should specifically look into AdSense for Domains.
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: lari Member since: May 25, 2011
  5. dunerider

    dunerider UKBF Big Shot

    999 155
    Having run a hosting business myself - we would try to contact the client but if after 30 days they hadn't paid up we would suspend the site (we could do this with one click) All to often we would then get paid within 2 hours, on receipt of money we would unsuspend and client website, email would be restored. Harsh but very effective. We suspended sites on Mondays - Wednesday to avoid the end if the week where it might go unnoticed over a weekend.

    We would leave sites as suspended for 60-90 days before removing them. This was all in our terms and conds.
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: dunerider Member since: Nov 14, 2009
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  6. LicensedToTrade

    LicensedToTrade UKBF Legend

    6,297 2,138
    I suspect that the money owed is probably in excess of a fiver so unless there is a pretty decent domain I can't see an inactive and unmaintained website selling for much.

    Whoever advised you to review your terms to avoid any doubt in the future had it right. Nevertheless in the here and now I'd suggest you pursue any outstanding debts that exceed a minimum value as defined by you.

    Have a go at pursing them yourself by letter and telephone. If that doesn't work then sell the debt to a collection agency and at least you will stand a chance of recovering a %.

    I've gone on to some websites where the customer clearly hasn't been paying their bills and there is a suspension notice or in some cases something a little more cutting designed to shame the customer. I'd probably advise against this as it won't do you any favours if prospective new customers see this.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2011
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: LicensedToTrade Member since: Nov 7, 2009
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  7. Curious

    Curious UKBF Big Shot

    700 196
    Sell them on to other companies. Are they local sites, I'm sure that other local businesses would take them off your hands?
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: Curious Member since: Jan 10, 2011
  8. cmcp

    cmcp UKBF Legend

    3,328 856
    So you want to obtain ownership and copyright of your hosting clients websites?

    I'd put it to you that when your hosting agreement is breeched or over, you terminate the account and don't take anything to do with the content on the website. It's not yours to consider.
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: cmcp Member since: Jun 25, 2007
  9. Parrot Hosting

    Parrot Hosting UKBF Enthusiast

    441 87
    It perhaps should be made clear that I am NOT considering what action to take on these sites OR that I am planning on changing my terms OR that I am considering taking over the sites. I'm just interested in what peoples views on this are.

    Its often a case where people put their T&C's together and follow a format but, I think there are issues here that could be a point of discussion.

    For example:

    If it is your hosting platform, then you obviously have a right to suspend the hosting - that's a given and not a problem anywhere. Leaving a suspended notice is often a good way of getting a domain owners attention. quickly.

    If its a domain name that is on auto-renew (which is why I have changed my system to default to 'owner-renew') then if you have paid for the renewals on that domain and the client has defaulted one presumes that if you are prepared to continue the hosting, then archiving the the customers site and sticking up a holding page with adsense on it makes err' m sense.. ;)

    cmcp - I think you lost the plot there somewhere :D
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: Parrot Hosting Member since: Jan 7, 2011
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  10. Mags@Ariotek

    [email protected] UKBF Newcomer

    16 4
    I think an acceptable policy in this situation would be to re-point the domain to a holding page covered in google or other PPC ads.

    May as well take advantage of the domains linkjuice! :)
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: [email protected] Member since: Jun 2, 2011
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  11. cmcp

    cmcp UKBF Legend

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    My point was pretty clear, you indicate in your first post that you would do something with the clients site. Assuming "site" means "website" it's a perfectly fair point to make. The clients website is nothing to do with you.

    If you're talking about replacing the site fair enough, as it's the only real option you have. I mis-understood your first post, where you say you'd sell the site or place advertising on it.
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: cmcp Member since: Jun 25, 2007
  12. Parrot Hosting

    Parrot Hosting UKBF Enthusiast

    441 87
    Thats a fair response. I think the point is if the client fails to pay the renewal fee, and the site is effectively in default, then despite the argument about ownership (because its almost irrelevant) without your payment on auto-renew it would have defaulted and ended up in the buyer pot anyway.

    Its why I say the ownership is down to who pays for it, if there is no proof that the owner has paid for its upkeep, they will have a major problem taking possession.

    I did this once with someone who owed me a fair bit of money (we are talking £3.5k) so I put porn adverts on his site until he paid me some of it, then took them down and never put anything up on it again. When they came up for renewal I didn't renew and made sure they were in his name when they defaulted. It may not be right but we all need to be paid and sometimes one has to do something a bit cheeky.... was it illegal? I would love to see THAT go to court... LOL :D would make the Daily Mail that would...
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: Parrot Hosting Member since: Jan 7, 2011
  13. cmcp

    cmcp UKBF Legend

    3,328 856
    Are you talking about a website (the software that sits on hosting, to display a website in html and css) or a domain name (, .com etc)?
    Posted: Jun 23, 2011 By: cmcp Member since: Jun 25, 2007
  14. dunerider

    dunerider UKBF Big Shot

    999 155
    To be honest I am not sure why you are renewing domains at your own cost, it makes more sense for all correspondence to go to the domain owner - who should be your client.

    If you have a good system of reminder emails - (60 day, 30, 7,6,5,4,3,2,1) there should be no reason why a client doesn't renew. It's all about getting your clients to take responsibility for their own domains.

    Think about the big guys, they don't autorenew on behalf of customers.

    If you do this you won't have the dilemma you asked about. Active domains will be renewed, inactive ones will lapse. You might need to suspend a site every now and again but I am sure you will get payment within 30 mins if you do.
    Posted: Jun 24, 2011 By: dunerider Member since: Nov 14, 2009
  15. Parrot Hosting

    Parrot Hosting UKBF Enthusiast

    441 87

    Yes, I have installed this on the new billing system and it will work that way from now. This all really stems from doing my inclusive hosting services from 5-6 years ago and we provided an inclusive renewal with hosting and web management. Ideal for then but, now we have grown its left us with a smattering of inconsistencies which we are working to resolve.

    The discussion was really centred around what people find acceptable in terms of response from a hosting company to a non-payee domain.

    As a company we have proceeded along the path of suspension of site, attempt to contact the client, failure to respond, cancellation of hosting at end of term and cancellation of domain at end of term.

    Its now working beautifully (except for the old baggage).

    I just thought it would make for an interesting discussion.
    Posted: Jun 24, 2011 By: Parrot Hosting Member since: Jan 7, 2011
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  16. dunerider

    dunerider UKBF Big Shot

    999 155
    So we are both singing from the same songsheet!

    I agree it is difficult to cut people off when you were offering a hand holding service. I guess you have now built your business to the extent you now need more automated processes in place. I remember taking my own business through the same process.
    Posted: Jun 24, 2011 By: dunerider Member since: Nov 14, 2009
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  17. cmcp

    cmcp UKBF Legend

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    Assuming you're talking about domain names and not intellectual property on the website, I'm still not sure you're entitled to do anything with the domain name considering it would be registered in their name. I'm not sure what your domain authorities would say about seizing clients domain names.
    Posted: Jun 24, 2011 By: cmcp Member since: Jun 25, 2007
  18. Parrot Hosting

    Parrot Hosting UKBF Enthusiast

    441 87
    I'm not sure the authorities would even consider this an issue unless raised by the registrant, who if in default with payment might not have any 'right' to a domain unless they paid their outstanding domain fees. Of course the moment an 'owner' pays for their current lease of the domain it becomes theirs again until the lease runs out.
    Posted: Jun 24, 2011 By: Parrot Hosting Member since: Jan 7, 2011
  19. cmcp

    cmcp UKBF Legend

    3,328 856
    So, customer buys domain through Parrot Hosting. This domain is in their name. You renew this domain for them, which is still in their name for the next year. They don't pay you, so you think this domain ownership transfers to you? What will Nominet say about that?

    AFAIK you can't just seize their domain if they are the registrant. As pointed out earlier, it's your decision to renew for them. You are renewing their registration - not renewing the domain under your name if they don't pay.

    Similarly, you can't touch the content on the website (HTML, CSS etc) as it's not yours. All you're doing is providing the means to display that content.

    As long as the domain is pointing at your server, IMO if they don't pay for that service you can replace that what is shown on that webspace.
    Posted: Jun 24, 2011 By: cmcp Member since: Jun 25, 2007
  20. obscure

    obscure UKBF Legend

    3,372 879
    Agreed, a host wouldn't have any right to the domain or the web site content/software unless they had been to court to gain ownership.

    Suspend the site (archive the content) and notify the owner in the hope they wake up and pay. If the money is large enough take legal action to recover.
    Posted: Jun 24, 2011 By: obscure Member since: Jan 18, 2008
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