IBM has been accused of charging hidden upgrade fees by angry AS/400 customers.
"We have been bullied into paying an extra £7,000 on top of the £40,000 that we paid for software subscription," said one disgruntled AS/400 user. "We had no choice as our licence key was due to expire. If that went, then the AS/400 would have gone, quickly followed by our business."
Under software subscription, IBM charges customers a fee over a period, which should cover the cost of upgrading to future software releases. However, the issue arises when customers move to the latest version of the operating system.
The additional charges cover the upgrade of old applications, called skip ship products, such as performance tools, application development tools and report program generator, which are used by most AS/400 customers, according to reseller Computing Services Industry (CSI).
Users are forced to pay the fee as the old applications will not work on the new operating system.
"Most customers' noses have been put out of joint by this," said CSI sales representative George Phillips. "I don't think it was something that IBM made clear at the outset."
Ray Titcombe, chairman of the IBM Computer Users Association, said: "If customers believe that they had bought the entire volume, it would seem unreasonable."
Tony Madden, executive director of AS/400 for IBM Europe, offered customers an olive branch.
"Frankly, there have been a couple of these. If we've created a situation that customers are unhappy with, we're more than happy to work it out," he said.
Users were warned in February this year that IBM's software subscription service for the AS\400, introduced last year, could leave them facing significantly higher charges. (see Newswire 17 February, 1999)
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