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I’m sure you’ve seen this robbery tactic before…a person catches your attention and begins to talk to you and while they are talking to you, their accomplice is robbing you blind.
Today I received an email from my VOIP provider Vonage that has me wondering. The bottom line from the email is Vonage bills will be increased by $1/month starting with billing dates in late April. We will also be able to use free 411 service (something I’ve never used in 5 years). By raising their fees which are hidden on the Vonage website, they keep their sales price low. Here’s the full email I received:
Dear Allen Stern –
At Vonage, we’re committed to providing our valued customers with the best experience possible through regular updates to our services. Effective April 23, 2010, we’re making the following changes:
We’re adding free, unlimited Enhanced 411 to all Vonage calling plans – saving you $1.49 per 411 call! This added benefit is included in the Emergency 911 and Information Services Fee which also ensures we provide nationwide E911 service in accordance with FCC regulations.
In addition, the Regulatory and Compliance Fee becomes the Regulatory, Compliance and Intellectual Property Fee. This fee covers our regulatory-related and legal compliance expenses, including those related to customer privacy protection, anti-fraud protection and number portability, as well as intellectual property-related costs enabling our services.
Both fees will increase from $1.49 per month to $1.99 per month beginning with your first billing cycle on or after April 23, 2010. This change will allow Vonage to maintain our commitment to safety, innovation and customer service.
I think it would have made more sense to send an email noting the pricing fee change and then include the free 411 service in their normal monthly email. The way they sent this email feels like they are trying to hide the 33% increase in their fees.
In case you are wondering, I went on a hunt and found that the Regulatory, Compliance and Intellectual Property Fee covers:
- Customer privacy protection
- Anti-fraud protection
- Number portability
- Intellectual property-related costs enabling our services
At least I know from their email that my additional $1 will mean excellent customer service!
Ribbit was acquired by BT last summer. In this SXSW interview, Jolie O’Dell chats with Raymond Lee of Ribbit and the two discuss the shrinking divide between computers and mobile devices, the need to bring telephony to interactivity online, and the future of brain chips.
Last night I received the following message from my VOIP provider Vonage. "Now through Christmas Eve, you, your family, and friends can leave Santa a message by dialing 1-700-CALL-SANTA (1-700-225-5726) from any Vonage phone! You’ll be connected directly to a holiday greeting from Santa himself. Also, starting at 5pm EST on December 24th, throughout the night you can also track Santa’s deliveries as he travels around the world. The kids will get an opportunity to hear where Santa and his reindeer have been and where they are headed next to deliver his goodies to all the good girls and boys!"
While I’m not into Santa, the idea of calling a number and interacting with content sparked my curiosity. Could services like PimpMyNews and other audio content providers benefit from partnering with VOIP providers? PimpMyNews currently requires that you download the content before you leave or listen via your mobile device over wifi or traditional mobile connections. But what if we could dial into a number, select our content provider and hear live content from our favorite blogs, news sources and other websites.
There could be some new partnerships between VOIP, mobile and content providers.
If you really wanted to take it to the extreme, the new commenting services like Disqus and IntenseDebate could read your blog’s comments to you and allow you to reply to any comment via voice. The service would then transcribe the comments and post them live. This would avoid issues with devices like the iPhone where typing a long comment might not be that productive.
Are there already solutions that provide this type of audio content interaction?
Good news for those of you that shop at Newegg and live in New York State. Back on June 1st, Newegg began to collect sales tax from all customers located in New York. Yesterday they updated their policy and are currently NOT collecting state sales tax.
They do note that you may be required to pay the sales tax when you pay your yearly income tax. Here’s the email from Newegg:
Dear Valued Newegg Customer,
As a result of recent changes in New York State tax law requiring certain out-of-state retailers to collect and remit sales taxes to theState of New York, we began collecting applicable sales tax for all orders shipped to New York addresses starting June 1, 2008.
After careful review and consideration, we are pleased to inform you that we have stopped collecting New York sales tax, effective August 21,2008. This decision was driven by your direct and candid feedback andour continued commitment to you as our valued customers.
We appreciate your patience as we worked through this process, and would like to reiterate our commitment in offering our customers the broadestproduct selection, competitive pricing, fastest shipping, and award-winning customer service.We look forward to continuing to provide you with the premier onlineshopping experience for all of your IT and consumer electronics needs.
Company Spokesperson and Vice President of Merchandising
Disclaimer: While Newegg no longer charges sales tax to its New York customers effective August 21, 2008, you may still have an obligation to pay New York State use tax on your purchases. Newegg cannot offer youany tax advice, so please refer to applicable law if you have anyquestions about use tax. Nothing in this email shall be deemed toapprove the validity of any New York State law, including but not limited to section 1101(b)(8)(vi) of the New York State Tax Law, which purports to require Newegg to collect and remit New York State sales taxon its sales to residents of that state.
Eric Eldon is on a roll today – first the CafePress scoop now a scoop on BT acquiring Internet phone company Ribbit for an undisclosed sum. We are tracking Eldon using the BrightKite mobile tracking service so we can see where he is getting these scoops from.
Ribbit claims to be "Silicon Valley’s first phone company" – whatever marketing firm they hired to create that slogan should be fired immediately.
Ribbit offers a variety of developer tools and APIs to leverage their telephony platform to build upon.
Ribbit recently partnered with Salesforce on business Internet telephony services. Ribbit raised $13 million in venture capital funding.
Update: 9:50PM – Eldon says Ribbit has denied the acquisition. This puts Eldon at 1-2 for today on scoops – as long as he doesn’t start claiming Mahalo was acquired by Microsoft, we are ok.
When NY-ers think of GrandCentral, most think of the happiest place on earth with all of the trains coming in and out and the black and white cookies from Zaro’s. But techies think of another GrandCentral, that is the very powerful telephony service now owned by Google.
The service is still in private beta and it’s been hard to find an invite but today Blogger has a post with a juicy link to grab an invite. GET INVITE NOW
Also, check out our interview with GrandCentral founder Craig Walker.
One of the first companies we reviewed on CN was rminder, a service that helps you not to forget important dates by sending you text messages or voice calls for each reminder. I spoke with the founders today who told me that the service is seeing massive growth over the past few months.
The team is back with a new product called Safercalls. Safercalls is a temporary phone number that allows you block private/unwanted callers, mask the caller’s callerid and forward calls to any number. It’s a way to protect your phone number without being afraid to share your number publicly. The idea of offering a number that I can turn off as I desire is appealing.
As I began to take a look at Safercalls, I wondered what the differences are to Google’s GrandCentral service. In a discussion with the founders, they explained the differences as:
- You don’t need a computer to control your Safercalls number, everything can be controlled using a phone menu system that we have setup
- We offer phone numbers all over the U.S., you can select an area code where you would like to have your Safercalls number from when signing up
- When you register a phone in the "outgoing" tab, you can call your Safercalls number and make outgoing calls with your safercalls number showing up on the person your calling’s phone.
- Safercalls allows you to specify a prefix that will show in front of all caller’s number when the call is forwarded to your phone
- One of the major features is the sliders we have for each day of the week that allows you specify the "time" you want calls to ring the forwarded number you have set.
The cost for the service is $19.95/month. It seems a bit high, $10 seems more reasonable. Here is the screen for setting incoming call parameters: