When you put $10 into your Skype account for those SkypeOut calls to regular phones, you expect that money to be there, . . . well, forever because Skype is so cheap you can call Japan for a few dimes. But Skype was being sneaky and basically taking all unused credits (and presumably recording them as revenues) if no SkypeOut calls were made after six months of inactivity. That’s right, they were taking your money without delivering any service.
Well, that got Skype sued for that in a class action which they just settled for all of $1.85 million. It only applies to U.S. Skype users who had to forfeit their credit and comes to $4 per user, which may not sound like a lot, but in Skype terms that could last you another six months easy.
Since the parties settled, the case never went to court, but the plaintiffs argued that what Skype was doing was no different than what numerous retailers and other businesses used to do with gift cards. Somebody would buy you a gift card and if you didn’t use it within six months or a year, it would “expire,” even though the money had already been paid and no goods were ever exchanged in return. States passed laws to crack down on the practice. The plaintiffs decided to bring their case under those laws and apply them to Skype Credits. From the notice sent out to Skype users who are potential class members:
Plaintiffs allege that Skype User Accounts and Skype Credit constitute “gift certificates” that cannot expire or be subject to inactivity fees under various states’ laws and that Defendants unlawfully applied the Skype Credit expiration policy against their Skype Credit balances after 180 days of inactivity in supposed violation of these various states’ laws, including applicable “gift certificate,” consumer protection and/or unfair and deceptive practices laws.
The settlement affects anyone who bought Skype Credit before December 31, 2009 and subsequently had it canceled after 180 days of inactivity. While the settlement is a piddling amount, the bigger winners are future Skype customers. Skype is discontinuing the practice.