Boingo apologizes for subscription-change e-mails

Wi-Fi hot spot provider posts "big fat apology" after telling subscribers their billing plans had been changed, apparently without their consent.

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Boingo Wireless executives are a bit red-faced this weekend after mistakenly informing the company's customers of a radical billing plan change being instituted apparently without their input or consent.

The Wi-Fi hot spot provider sent an e-mail to its customers Saturday informing them that the company was immediately canceling their flat-fee monthly subscription plans and replacing it with a "Day Pass" plan that bills for a 24-hour period each time a customer logs in to the network.

Here's a snippet of the e-mail a Boingo subscriber provided to CNET:

The U.S.-based subscriber who provided this e-mail said their current monthly subscription rate was $21.95. The subscriber also noted that this was the first notice of a plan change and they were never given the opportunity to approve a billing change to their account.

The company quickly backtracked, posting a statement to its Web site titled "A Big Fat Apology" that was signed by company CEO Dave Hagan:

On Saturday, an email campaign that we were testing went terribly, terribly awry. (Think Hal taking over in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

If you received an email message (or many, many messages) from us about your account status, kindly disregard it. We're terribly sorry for any confusion or inconvenience this might have caused. In the annals of Email Marketing Fiascos, this ranks right up there, and for that we're embarrassed and appreciate your understanding.

A Boingo representative declined to say how many customers received this e-mail but said it was based on a template that is used to confirm customers' service change requests.

"As some customers' jobs change (or are eliminated), they don't travel as much as they used to and no longer need ongoing service," Boingo spokesperson Christian Gunning said in an e-mail statement. "There is nothing nefarious underlying the content of the mail itself; it's a customer confirmation to notify the user that the account has been changed as they requested."

Updated at 9:10 a.m.: with Boingo comment.