Update: Playster cancels accounts for excessive usage

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 support@playster.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.)

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Is Playster booting customers for reading too much?

One of my most popular posts on this blog is a review of the all-you-can-read subscription service Playster from March of 2016. Today, I received a disturbing comment on that post that claimed that Playster is apparently cancelling users’ memberships because they are consuming too much content.

According to commenter manderleylife, their account was flagged by Playster’s algorithm:

On Aug 19 I got an email from them: We’re contacting you to let you know that your Playster membership has been flagged automatically by our fair use algorithm. As a result, your membership has been frozen while we investigate why the activity on your account triggered this algorithm. To put it simply, they said my usage resembled “commercial use, automated consumption, recording/duplicating, sharing or using multiple accounts created with same device.” Playster “investigated” it and said they couldn’t determine if I was doing anything illegal so they were cancelling my membership!

Manderleylife stresses that they didn’t share or illegally use content; they were listening to audiobooks for perhaps 6-7 hours each day. Note that Playster markets its service as offing unlimited reading.

Manderleylife also pointed out that other members (also avid readers) had also had their memberships frozen and cancelled. A brief search on the internet showed a series of complaints, most dated over the last ten days, on sites like Trustpilot and Pissed Consumer. The stories are startlingly similar. All claim that their memberships were cancelled even though there was no proof of wronging other than heavy usage.

These reports showcase the problem with the all-you-can-read (or listen to) model. Avid users can indeed go through a high volume of content through the legal use a service. Just ask Scribd, who in February, 2016 had to put content limits in place and deleted most of their romance titles from the catalog, just to stop the financial drain.

While Scribd changed their system to stop the bleed, it does sound like Playster is cancelling memberships of users who are consuming more content than they are comfortable with. Unfortunately for Playster, they have marketed the service as unlimited. Cancelling memberships with no clear evidence of wrongdoing is not the right way to treat your customers.

I am reaching out to Playster to see what they have to says about the situation. More to come…

(Note: There’s an update to this story with a statement from Playster here.)

Unhappy with Your OS 5 Fire Tablet Update?

fire HDXEarlier this week, my Fire HD 6 updated to OS 5.1.1 Bellini. I started to write a post on the topic, , but there didn’t seem to be a lot of fuss about it so I put it on hold. Today, however,  I seem to be getting a lot of hits on an old Fire OS update post looking for information on the latest update for the tire Tablets.  And, so….

Last December, Amazon said that they would provide an update to OS “Bellini” for older Fire tablets. That 5.1.1 update rolled out  over the last week for a lot of people  and there have been a lot of complaints. For the record, my own personal  comment was “Yuck!” Add in the recent update for the Paperwhite and there are a lot of unhappy customers.

A look on the Amazon discussion forums shows some interesting threads on the topic:

Complaints range from anger at the change, tales of features not working to stories of children coming to their parents in tears because they can’t figure out what happened.

Personally, I can understand the frustration. The night before the update, I was reading a book on my Scribd app. The next day, it was like a totally different device. That’s one thing that doesn’t happen with a physical book.! It wasn;t that big of a shock for me because had already used the Bellini OS on the $49 Fire 7. If you are used to the older OS, it is quite different. I hate the fact that I have to be more careful abut swiping the lock screen now. The new OS is much more sensitive to where you swipe than the older version was.

In an unusual move for Amazon, they are allowing customers who own certain models to downgrade the OS back to the old version, OS 4. Check your Manage Your Content and Devices page to see if your model is  eligible for the downgrade. (See photo.)

device option os updateThere are a couple of caveats, however. Downgrading involves a factory reset, meaning that you will lose everything on your Fire. Everything will have to be reinstalled from the cloud, so make sure you have synced and backed up all your personal documents. All your apps and anything sideloaded will have to be reinstalled.

Also be aware that your downgrade may not happen right away. You initiate the downgrade from the Manage Your Content and Devices page and it can take up to 72 hours. You must leave you device turned on with wi-fi enable and make sure your battery is charged at least 50%.

Amazon has a help page with instructions specifically  for  downgrading here. Even if you downgrade, you will still have the option to upgrade at a later time.

So, how do you feel about the update? Love it or hate it? Are you downgrading or deciding to live with it?