Yesterday, I posted about user claims that Playster is apparently cancelling users’ memberships because they are consuming too much content. The service is marketed as offering unlimited access to media content. There are a series of complaints, most dated over the last ten days, on sites like Trustpilot and Pissed Consumer, all claiming that their accounts were unjust flagged by the system’s fair use algorithm. These users then found their accounts cancelled or suspended. All of the members seemed to be heavy users of audiobooks.
I reached out to Playster for their side of the story. Here is their response:
Playster’s fair use algorithm has two major goals: to deter fraud and help us keep the service unlimited for all audiobook lovers.
After discovering cases of average consumption exceeding 24 hours per day, concurrent streaming on multiple IP addresses and other activity that appeared to be in violation of our terms and conditions, we felt we had no option but to take an extra cautious approach with accounts resembling any of the following:
- Commercial use;
- Automated consumption;
- Recording or duplicating content;
- Unauthorized sharing, leasing or distribution of content;
- Public broadcasting;
- Multiple accounts created with the same device, IP address or credit card
- Accounts using a blacklisted device, IP address or credit card;
- Use of a VPN or Proxy IP.
We realize some accounts may have been flagged unjustly, which is why all members were refunded their last membership charge and everyone affected was invited to submit an appeal form, so that we may address all concerns in detail with the attention they deserve. If anyone hasn’t received the appeal form or has any questions, they can email email@example.com.
Several items on the above list are troubling to me. First, flagging an account solely because of an IP address can be a recipe for disaster (please google records companies charging 80 year old great-grandmothers with infringement for details). For a variety of reasons, IP addresses are not always unique. People create accounts from workplaces or apartment buildings that share internet access. IP address alone is not sufficient reason for denying access to an account.
Perhaps most troubling is the assumption that the use of a VPN or proxy IP suggests illegal actions. There are host of valid reasons to use a VPN for both privacy and security concerns. The use of a VPN should not imply illegal consumption of content.
Playster’s response said that members were invited to submit an appeal form. None of the complaints I read on either Trustpilot or Pissed Consumer mentioned being offered an appeal form. In fact, several of them have commented on the lack of response and long delays in hearing from customer service. At this point, no one has said that they were able to get their account reinstated.
If you have had an experience with this issue, please let me know in the comments. Are you a VPN user? Were you offered an appeal form? Was customer service’s response? Did you get your account reinstated?
I will follow up on this story as more information becomes available.
(You can read my review of the Playster service here.)
Pingback: Is Playster booting customers for reading too much? | The eBook Evangelist
My account was suspended. I listen for 16-20 hours a day, and overnight because I listen in my sleep. I don’t have a static IP address, so if they’re picking up on different IP addresses, it could be that it’s because I had to get new service recently? IDK. They did an exactly 10-business day “review” and then stated that I triggered one of their long list of reasons for suspending accounts. They couldn’t tell me which one. Customer no-service could not help me with anything and just simply said t wait and that my refund was on it’s way. Still haven’t seen a refund … so they’ve held my money for 15 days now. They did give me an appeal form, and I submitted that yesterday. But, guess what? That takes another 5 to 10 days to resolve.
I’m pretty certain that I will not get my account back. They don’t want a heavy listener like me. However, their business model states UNLIMITED. I should be able to listen all day every day and it not be an issue.
One things I’d like to say is that in October, they added a pop up alert that requires you to press “Continue Listening” when you have been listening for more than 30 minutes. They told me that it wasn’t something they could change, but I assume that this was only implemented for heavy listeners.
I have been leaving bad reviews on the normal review sites and on Twitter.
Dana, thanks for sharing your experience. The “Continue Listening” prompt would be extremely irritating! I would be curious to see if other people mention this, particularly people who aren’t such heavy listeners. The subscription services have made it pretty clear that they really don’t want heavy listeners and they really don’t mean unlimited. Even the public libraries are having issues on services like Hoopla.
Just curious: How (and why) do you listen in your sleep?
Pingback: Playster raises price and limits collections for audiobook listening | The eBook Evangelist
Pingback: Scribd brings back unlimited reading (sort of) | The eBook Evangelist
This just happened to me. I like to listen to audiobooks instead of music while I work. They never offered me an appeal form or anything. I’m really upset because they recently changed their payment model making access to ‘premium’ audiobooks more expensive. If they can’t let you listen to unlimited content they shouldn’t advertise as such.
I am sorry you went through this. Trustpilot adds new complaints about their audiobook service all the time, unfortunately.
The customer support literally just said ‘You can also feel free to create a new membership with different payment information.’ Isn’t that one of the items in their fair use policy? It seems very shady.