Update 5th August 2013 – Woo have made an update to their original announcement – if you want your lifetime license to continue you have 24 months to log into your Woo control panel and request re-instatement of your original terms. This is good for Woo, as after 24 months they will know their exposure to support requests. ‘Legally’ this is bordering on a grey area, but I say tough luck, if you’ve not logged into your account in two years then it’s unlikely you’ll still be using Woo products. Hopefully Woo don’t start ‘retiring’ products faster than they would otherwise – time will tell. Yes that’s right, WooThemes, the popular WordPress Framework provider located in Cape Town South Africa, has broken the contract with up to 100,000 of it’s current client-base!
What has WooThemes Done?
Woo they took it upon themselves to cancel the contract with prior Customers and implement new terms and conditions – retrospectively. These new ‘terms’ increase the cost considerably, put restrictions on the support of products, and for customers that purchased frameworks outright with no further costs … now charge them a yearly fee. Woo claim that they need to have a sustainable business model – well they’ve failed on that point as they’ve left themselves wide open to legal challenge as they’ve retrospectively tried to change the contract with existing customers. That’s not very sustainable is it?
What did WooThemes Change?
What did they change, well they changed a bunch of things, but the thing that has caused the biggest gripe with us, they’re taking away the service that we paid for. Back in 2012 we purchased a suite of themes and frameworks at a one-off cost. Updates and support are included as part of the package, and for life. Woo are retrospectively trying to cancel this contract, with no basis in the terms and conditions to do so.
Why did WooThemes do it?
So why did they do this – Woo they decided they wanted more cash in the bank to cover the cost of support tickets. Here’s the thing, along with many other developers have never raised a ticket. If I’ve had a problem – I’ve looked at the code and figured it out myself. It’s not tough and we’ve made some fantastic websites with the products from WooThemes.
Bait & Switch
What Woo have done is known as Bait & Switch, and it is illegal in most developed countries, including South Africa which has draconian laws protecting Consumers and Business. So Woo enticed us with price and a set of condition, then changed EVERYTHING to the detriment of the existing Customers. An example less than a month ago from WooThemes, on their 5 Year Birthday Woo offered discounts, and leonardowood asked Woo to confirm if the license is forever – Woo confirmed it was … but that ‘forever’ licence was cancelled by Woo after less than a month! Thanks to Jacqui for this example (click for larger).
Free Updates & Support for Life
We purchased our suite of themes and frameworks prior to October 2012, and it was promised that updates and support would be free for life, here’s a screenshot from their own FAQ, check out the bottom line (click for larger):
Now Woo want folks to pay a yearly subscription in addition to the purchase cost which already included lifetime support.
Increase to $14,000 Per Year Subscription
In the comments of their blog posts it is reported that some existing customers will now end up spending $14,000 per year in addition to the fees they have already paid … this is just crazy money. It’s going to put a bunch of smaller developers out of business. Which smaller developer can find and justify a spare $14,000 on the whim of a supplier? Not us. Remember when the BMW introduced the new Mini, BMW they offered 3 years servicing for just £100. Imagine if BMW then decided, forget it, we’re keeping the £100 and you can pay for the servicing yourself! This is the same. Actually it’s worse, I can think of some very good use for $14,000 a year … I’m not in that position thankfully, and our current exposure is limited to a three figure sum, but that’s three figure sum is for something that we’ve already paid for.
Loss of Trust
I no longer trust Woo, and they’ll have to go a long way to earn it back. I am not alone, they’ve lost the trust from a lot of their users as per the comments in the blog thread announcing the change. Woo didn’t even have the good sense or courage to email current customers of the change, they simply posted a blog entry on their website. That’s going to mean the only time an existing customer would find out about the broken contract is when their downloads stop working. Ouch. In fact Woo have done pretty much the worst thing they could of by breaking their commitment to their existing customers, and within their blog post claiming they are due a percentage of earnings made by web developers,
And that’s where the math goes wrong: we’ve made a loss of $170 ($70 minus $240) on your purchase, and you’ve made $48k.That’s a bit like Ford asking for a percentage of my salary each time I drive to work! No that doesn’t wash WooThemes – I’ve purchased a Product & Service and you need to stick to your end of the deal.
No longer developing WooThemes Sites!
Yep that’s right, we’re no longer developing new sites using Woo’s Framework whilst this uncertainty continues. What next, WooThemes asking for even more money from me and additional hikes in cost? When our current projects are complete, we’ll be moving to a different framework. Actually I lie, money has exchanged hands and we’ve are will be developing new sites under the Genesis framework. My thanks to the fab team at StudioPress for cutting us a great deal as a WooThemes refugee. That said, we’ll update our WooThemes Canvas CSS Tweaks page later this month, we’ve got a BUCKET load of tweaks to add – and you’ll LOVE them to pieces. We do hope Woo change their mind and stop this silliness and we can develop under Woo and under Genesis.
To Our Existing Customers
Don’t panic – we’ve got you covered. Our exposure is limited to a three figure annual sum – for our clients with a 5 year fixed price support contract, there is no change. Sadly renewals will need to increase once your 5 year term has expired, in the meantime we’ll swallow the cost of the increase.
Unlike WooThemes, we don’t shaft our client base!
- The Mayne Design
What Woo Should have done
Woo should have Grandfathered existing clients, and start charging for support queries that are not due to errors in their product. ‘Lifetime support’ doesn’t provide a carte blanche opportunity to ask for help in customisation – and they need to sort this out. A sustainable business model is not one where you illegally terminate the contract with 100,000 of your existing customers. The only sustainable business model is for the lawyers should Woo’s customers decide to start a class action. An action which customers cannot lose. Additionally Woo really need to sort their framework documentation, although it has improved during the first half of 2013, in my opinion it is till incomplete and lower quality than other providers. Despite all of this we never raised any Tickets with Woo and our only query was to ask where the documentation on their website have moved to after they changed knowledgeablebase providers.
What happens next?
The next few weeks will be interesting. Woo doesn’t have a leg to stand on, either legally (Contract Law is very tough in South Africa where Woo is based) and they have alienated a high percentage of their customer base. Will Woo survive? I really do hope so, they have got some good, mature products. They need to find the same maturity in their sales leadership, this isn’t the first time that Woo have caused resentment with their changes. Woo need to sort out their business model & regain + retain trust from the WordPress Community. I still love Woo – I’d hate this trial separation to become permanent.
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