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'I'm innocent!' says IT contractor on trial after Office 365 bill row spiraled out of control

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Why was he in control of their cloud service? Suely it was the CoC credit card used, not his. I certainly do this for my customers.

If he'd served them with a bill, why not just wait for the money?

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I guess you've never worked as an independent contractor, where the rule is to acquire the licenses first, then bill the entity on a cost-plus basis for the time involved. After all, most jobs are legit and pay on time, and running around with a client's credit card is seen as a serious faux pas.

Most likely the tech really did shoulder the £62K on his own; he says he already billed them and had proceeded to a civil suit before cutting them off, so what more do you want from him?

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Devils and details.

If it was: contract cancelled, service cancelled. What were they expecting?

If on the other hand, they had paid their O365 bill but had cancelled his support contract and he turned off the service because he still happened to have admin access, that's another story.

Either way, I'm sure I won't be the first to think: it wouldn't have happened if it was wasn't Cloud.

Let's take another example... say you run an abortion advice service which relies on government funding. Trump cuts off your government funds and you have a cash-flow issue. If you don't pay your subscription, your entire operation pretty much shuts down immediately. No Excel for the finance team, no Word for the mail merges, no Excel for the tech team IP addressing "database."

Or maybe you run a Muslim humanitarian aid agency, and Trump decides it should be shut down because its aids terrorists. Maybe a rogue employee is helping terrorists - unlikely but possible. Flick a switch and your infrastructure as a service is gone. No media to install from, no offline usage is possible for the OS or applications. Accounting and payroll running as SaaS? It's gone - you can't pay bills or employees. It isn't just that a court order could put you out of business, its the fact that you'll be in no position to fight it. If you can't fight it, the government is going to be able to far more heavy handed.

How fragile do you want your infrastructure to be? How much fragility do we want in the ecosystem as a whole?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Devils and details.

With off-site backups in the hands of the end-user?

As if on-site admins never used their remote access to wipe systems down?

Never known to have happened?

Maybe time to lay off the moan and sit down and pass an AWS exam?

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Re: Devils and details.

Charities should be using FLOSS..

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Coat

Re: Devils and details.

It's Cloud, not Sheep.

I know it's confusing at a distance, but.....

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If he'd have been an employee instead of a contractor, this wouldn't have happened.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Devils and details.

It's Cloud, not Sheep.

No wonder I couldn't get to sleep.

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Devil

Re: Devils and details.

"If on the other hand, they had paid their O365 bill but had cancelled his support contract and he turned off the service because he still happened to have admin access, that's another story."

yes. THAT is a detail that would make a HUGE difference in how we interpret this situation.

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Re: Devils and details.

That is a silly comment. With out knowing the needs of the end user. There may or may not be FLOSS alternatives.

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That is a silly comment. ...?

Not really. Maybe a little political perhaps. It is a Chamber of Commerce so most likely corrupt - well to judge from the CCs in the counties I grew up in, and it's being in Georgia - at least in minor ways. They need a web site, some editing capacity and possibly a bit of accounting ad all the social media crud. All of that can be done with FOSS. Why doesn't someone invent some antisocial media?

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Anonymous Coward

Well, it is Georgia after all

Which means the sheriff obeys the highest briber.

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Re: Devils and details.

Pray tell how is a Chamber of Commerce a charity?

They're a semi-public special interest group representing business interests. Nothing more.

Though some CoCs are funded by local government they're usually not controlled by them, if you're British the best way of looking at a CoC is as a quango with a large degree of independence from their funding sources.

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Re: That is a silly comment. ...?

How do you know that's all they need ? My point still stands. If you do not know what they need how can you say FLOSS should be mandatory. You are making a statement with out knowing all of the facts.

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Re: Devils and details.

Your first few paragraphs were great.

Then you went all SJW and spoiled it.

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Re: That is a silly comment. ...?

Why doesn't someone invent some antisocial media?
They already did. It's called Farcebook...

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Re: Devils and details.

Problem with Office365?

there is LibreOffice.

No contract to cause problems, no license fees...

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State monopoly on violence

Writ large.

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Based on assumptions...

I'm tempted to side with Kubicek. Now, I have never dealt with the US government business wise but I have a few experiences with working for the Dutch government while representing a (small) private IT company.

Lets just say that I'm not too surprised to read about experiences where the government doesn't hold up their end of an agreement. I've somewhat experienced the same (where you literally had to wait for months before you finally got payment, an investment which is extremely hard on small private firms) and that made me decide 'never again'.

In case you don't understand: you make costs in order to help out certain customers, investments if you will. But you also expect to get paid, also to cover said expenses. So by letting bills go (way) overdue you could argue that the client (the government here) is now forcing you to lend them money. And that can be a very rough situation for a private company. Not to mention unfair: if you loan money with a bank you get to pay a lot of interest after all.

The thing is: I read much more stories describing such experiences with regards to doing work for the government. Granted: Dutch government in my case. But if there's one thing I learned thanks to the Internet it's that some governments aren't all that different in the way they act and behave towards citizens.

So with that in mind I think this is a classic display of power abuse on the end of the US government.

Something easily proven too: all Kubicek has to do is show the contracts. Assuming that those are all in order (I assume as much, otherwise I doubt he'd hire a lawyer) I think he should have a solid case. And I also hope he'll sue them for slander and power abuse as well!

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Re: Based on assumptions...

Not officially the government I think.

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Re: Based on assumptions...

" I have a few experiences with working for the Dutch government"

My experience with the Dutch public sector is that they're much like any large business: it all depends which department you deal with. The parts of the Dutch government (mostly technical bods) I've worked for have always been v efficient and pay promptly, but I'm aware of colleagues who've had grief from rather less well organised departments.

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Re: Based on assumptions...

Not the U.S. Government, its a local municipal government. The rest of your post is valid, however.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Based on assumptions...

That is interesting re the Dutch government. A stark contrast to the UK. Here the government is the best customer you can have if you want your invoices paid on time.

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Re: Based on assumptions...

Hear, hear!

I'm aware of a few contracts that were negotiated on the basis of a volume of work or a length of contract, where the contractor assumes most of the costs at the start, and where the contractor finally makes a decent profit at the end.

Often, the client cancels that contract, right at the point where the contractor has just barely recovered his/her costs, but before they manage to make any of the negotiated profits.

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Re: Based on assumptions...

@Patched Out

"Not the U.S. Government, its a local municipal government. The rest of your post is valid, however."

Chambers of Commerce are by and large private organizations organized by local businesses. They do usually apply for and are granted non-profit tax status for some reason. They do tend to work closely with the local governments (in the US this would be County and Municipal in most jurisdictions with the notable exception of Louisiana which is based on parishes instead of counties - French influence) and can have an inordinate amount of behind-the-scenes influence within said government offices.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Based on assumptions...

Yes, the Chamber of Commerce is a non-govt entity, and its members most assuredly were golf buddies with the sheriff, or had paid the money to get him elected.

It seems the town (which is the county seat) has a population of only 6000 or so, so quite ripe for old-time southern small town corruption.

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Re: Based on assumptions...

"Here the government is the best customer you can have if you want your invoices paid on time."

If you're Serco or G4S, you even get paid for non-existant work

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Re: Based on assumptions...

"Not the U.S. Government, its a local municipal government. "

No, iI don't think it's even a municipal government, it's a Chamber of Commerce, which is maybe, at best, quasi-governmental, but not really. It's an economic development group of local business leaders. AFAIK, they have no governmental authority over anything, although they may be "officially" recognized by the local government and included in parades and such.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Based on assumptions...

"Here the government is the best customer you can have if you want your invoices paid on time."

Really? I've been on the edge of meetings with UK public sector finance people where they were looking for things like spelling mistakes on invoices so they could avoid paying them in one quarter, and leave them to pay at the end of the following quarter. They were 30 day invoices, which was clear on the invoice - and the PO had accepted the supplier's standard terms. (I was the engineer who worked with the supplier in question, and a finance manager had signed off on the PO.)

All I could do was ask which of the finance people's names should go on the "reasons the project failed" email. However, they knew no such email would ever be read by anyone who would do anything about it.

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Re: Based on assumptions...

"Here the government is the best customer you can have if you want your invoices paid on time."

One client of mine doing work for HMG billed one of their clients by EDI. The client's EDI server had been down for a few weeks before they got round to telling them. I also spent a long time analysing the far from clear self-billing of another of their clients, trying to reconcile it with work done for them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Based on assumptions...

"Really? I've been on the edge of meetings with UK public sector finance people where they were looking for things like spelling mistakes on invoices so they could avoid paying them in one quarter, and leave them to pay at the end of the following quarter."

Yes, really. Based on my experience, the private sector is much, much worse for delaying payment, or trying to renegotiate the contract after they get the invoice. Whereas prompt payment is a matter of policy for the government. More often I've had public sector bodies wanting to pay early - to use up this year's budget and make sure their budget isn't cut next year.

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Paper trail

The paperwork trail will ultimately exonerate or lack of will crucify him.

If he has records of sending via some form of recorded delivery, or acknowledged email, an invoice for the service, a statement, a reminder, a 7 day letter and a final notice then he's covered.

If however he has seen red when they have terminated him, and he's shut down the service in spite, it's unlikely the judge will take his side.

Always do things in writing, never by phone.

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Re: Paper trail

Well.. always have the terms /contract in writing.

Ill wait to see what happens on this.

One sides overstepped the mark.

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Anonymous Coward

Depressingly familiar

When I first started out freelancing spent half my time chasing late payments and listening to sob stories from accounts departments, now I put the penalty clauses on the front page of the contract in block capitals.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Depressingly familiar

Quite. And lawyers are some of the worst. I shifted to enforcing a 4% charge per month for invoices unpaid after 30 days (with a couple for grace). Given that they had signed the contracts (expert witness work) they had not a leg to stand on. I still get the work as I seem to be able to deliver the results, but invoices became a lot easier to rely on being paid.

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Re: Depressingly familiar

No need to put it in the contract, just something at the bottom of invoices reminding them of the 'Late Payments of Commercial Debts Regulations'.

I wrote a calculator for the statutory interest that you can claim: Statutory Interest Calculator

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Re: Depressingly familiar

"I put the penalty clauses on the front page of the contract"

Where possible I included a clause to say that all copyright in work done remained with MyCo until final invoice was paid.

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Re: Depressingly familiar

When I first started out freelancing spent half my time chasing late payments and listening to sob stories from accounts departments
When I first began contracting in the early 90s that was a problem for me too. Government and big business were the worst taking from 60-120 days to pay a 30 day invoice. Then I started offering a 15% discount for payment on the day. My cash-flow improved dramatically and after a few months I didn't need to issue 30 day invoices and wait any more.

Government and big businesses were often miffed when told: "I'll call you back when I'm so short of business I can afford to wait a few months before being paid."

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Re: Depressingly familiar

And lawyers are some of the worst.
Not for me. While the only bad debt I had was with a lawyer, most of my clients were lawyers and real estate agents, Basically small businesses with 2-5 employees though I had one huge contract that needed me to hire two subbies for a year.

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don't mess with the good ole boys at the chamber of commerce, they've got the cops in their pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

UK version ?

Anyone else find this story familiar ? I am sure there was a similar story in the UK where a small firm/contractor set something up, and when the client didn't pay and lost access to their data they tried to claim "extortion" and got the police involved ?

For some reason I am also remembering the story where the Feds (US) seized some servers and were then forced to pay to keep them running after the legitimate non-targets who were affected threatened them with a megabucks civil suit.

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I can't see anything happening apart from the Chamber of Commerce being shown to be fools.

Jim's won awards in Forsyth for his MSP services, FFS.

If you want to speak to the man in person, there's a good discussion here https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/1963710-msp-charged-with-extortion-for-shutting-off-services

There's also a fundraiser to cover Jim's legal costs at https://fundrazr.com/MSPInjustice

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Happy

Best of luck to him if he is in the right.

@Huw

Also impressed at a member of the Scottish Parliament doing it work in America.

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You can't fight city hall...

Or rather the Chamber of Commerce.

Ok, so you can...

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Don't mess with the BOFH, however the real BOFH would have been more subtle and not have themself arrested.

Is the chair of the chamber of commerce a relative of the local police chief or the mayor ?

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This was on Spiceworks earlier this week, plus more information

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I included the SW link in my earlier post.

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This is a Professional IT Service Provider that I have worked with along side in the past. As a good service provider they have a solid contract in place.  They also would have a continuance clause for the end of the contract and need notification that the client will be moving to someone else, 90 days is normal.  They also I am sure have a line about if a client doesn't pay on time then xyz will happen to their services.

Also even if they did provide their o365 and were paying for it etc. Then if you shut this off it does not take 10 days to get it back online.  Even if you have to change the domain etc. it doesn't take that long.  Even if everything is fully deleted on the admin panel side, MS can retrieve it.

Sounds to me like the Chamber is trying to blame them for a bad decision in moving to a company that is incompetent.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

Contractual dispute not a criminal matter

The worrying thing is that this shoudl involve a criminal court. It seems like a contractual dispute. Just because something is done using a computer does not make it more serious than if done without using a computer. The keything is who was paying the subscription, if the contractor was paying then it is entirely appropriate that he doscontinued it if the cusotmer terminated the contract.

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