Office 365 subscription disabled for fraud- Help?

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Occasional Contributor

I am a registered Microsoft partner migrating a client to Office 365.  We started a working trial on on 1/5/18 and migrated most users in the first five days from on-premise Exchange. 

 

Problems started on 1/19/18.  The Office 365 30-day trial was disabled by Microsoft on day 14.  Some automated Microsoft check flagged the account as 'fraud'.  The client has been in business for 20+ years in agriculture and does not engage in any type of behavior that could remotely be construed as fraud.  No mass emails, no malware, etc. 

 

Four hours of waiting and frustrating  phone support was needed to re-activate the trial.   During these 4 hours, all 40+ employees were without access to email, word, excel, etc.  The case was escalated many levels at MS and I was promised that the back-end team would investigate the cause of the mistaken deactivation of the account. 

 

After lengthy discussion, the end result on Friday was MS agreed to extend the trail for year to compensate the client for the downtime.  MS sent an email to me that apologized and stated the free trial would be extended for one year as compensation for their mistake. MS assured us that the account would not be disabled.  All was good - client was happy and we chalked it up to a system glitch.

 

Fast forward two business days later.  Today (Tuesday), at 9:30am this morning my phone started ringing that users had no access to email, word, excel, etc, again and that Microsoft had once again disabled their subscription.  Same exact problem from Friday that I was told would not happen again - the account was disabled for fraud.  No one could be more specific as to the actual reason, just that it was flagged.  I was not given any information about the results of Friday's investigation.

 

After three hours on the phone this morning, I was told by a manager in the commercial billing team that since they had already manually re-activated the trial once, they would be unable to re-activate it again today or tomorrow and that an investigation was underway since Friday.  Our only option to restore service would be to convert the trial to a paid subscription.  I called the CTO of the company and explained that even though Microsoft had extended the free trial for a year, three days later, that trial was effectively ended.  The client would have to pay if they wanted access to email, and office applications.  I also mentioned (again) that Microsoft's automated fraud detection system which had flagged the account and disabled it on Friday and again on Tuesday, would not flag it again. 

 

The angry client had no options - MS had them over a barrell:  pay or no email.  They converted the trial to a subscription and paid to license all mailboxes - even mailboxes that we are converting to shared accounts because we were in the middle of a migration and they couldn't afford to lose another day of service.

 

The commerical billing manager told me that he couldn't make any promises for any credit due.

 

My client is expecting that their account willl be disabled for fraud at any time, and is irate that their mail services were held hostage until they paid.  We were not even 14 days into the 30 trial when this mess began.

 

Two full working days of my time has been consumed on sorting this mess out.  O365 phone support is abysmal for anything like this and I was told that I coudn't escalate the case any further.  The client is not engaged in any fraudulent activity, they don't have infected machines, etc, etc.  However, even if there was fraud, does it make sense to shut down all the users without contacting the admin or partner of record and not be able to restore their service immediately when the person calls in to complain?  To have 40+ employees sitting around for 2+ days twiddling their thumbs?

 

I'm looking for help to restore my client's trust in MS.  Is there anyone at Microsoft that I can speak to that will resolve this issue in three ways:

 

1) Provide the reason for deactivation of the subscription.

2) Provide writeen assurance that the subscription will not be deactivated without contacting us first..

3) Provide a service credit.

 

 

Clearly this isn't a routine "complaint", is there a someone at Microsoft that can act as a liason in helping resolve this issue?  I've tried the partner team (worthless) and the online services team.  The online services team has been helpful but their hands are tied.  

 

Office365 is touted as having a 99.9% uptime guarantee.  We've already had 9 hours of downtime for this client in 3 business days.  

 

--

Chuck

19 Replies
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30 day trials are limited to 25 users, I believe. Perhaps running 40 accounts breaks the trial rules?
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It's possible, but I think unlikely.  When we started the trial, we asked Microsoft to increase the number of trial licenses to 50 and they did that on 1/5 and we were running like that for two weeks.  They will frequently add extra licenses to a trial (or extend free trials) if requested. 

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Well, while I completely agree this never have happened: might I ask why you and your customer decide to make a real migration on a non-production tenant? Non-production tenants are intended for testing, not for real production use....by the way, since it's not possible to go back in time and revert the situation, I hope someone from Microsoft will see also your message so you can get the support you are requiring now
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Well, this is pretty messed up. There are no restrictions in terms of actual user accounts you can provision with trials, most likely it's something to do with CC verification or similar. Still, doenst seem like the issue has been handled in any acceptable fashion on MS side. Let me see if I can find someone to take a proper look into it...

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I wasn't aware that trial subscriptions are for non-production environments.  I typically allow customers to testdrive office 365 via a hybrid migration, as in the case here.  We connected their on-prem services and migrated most users.  We were in the process of finalizing the user count. 

 

My understanding, and I may be wrong, is that this is the purpose of a trail - test it out and If you like it, they can buy it by converting it to a full subscription.  If it's only for dev/test data, why would you be able to convert it to a paid subscription? 

 

I don't remember reading any Microsoft documentation that says trial subscriptions are a lower form of service and are not for production environments. 

 

It's very tough for a company to testdrive email on a dev/test email account.  They will log in once, say, "that's nice" and go back to work in their production email account.  They won't testdrive it until they are forced.  Microsoft knows this, hence the trial subscription.  

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While I'm sure this could be handled in a more chic fashion, there are lots of (spam) parties firing up trial tenants for spam runs etc. Now, trials can be converted to paid subscriptions, and extended one time - trial periods are not infinite. A trial tenant in principle temporary and meant for demonstration or dev/test purposes while it is in trial. Since you were using it more in a production kind of way (and perhaps one of your users sent a bulk mailing?), something triggered a mod to use their ban hammer. I'm sure you can escalate through the proper channels; you have an e-mail from MS with a statement contradiction their closure action.

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Hi Charles I hope you get your issue solved by Microsoft but can I ask you one thing? What does trial mean to you?  Trial is itself is a testing and one never put business or production stuff for trial or test. It is your mistake. I may sound bad and rude but it is. 

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One thing is create a trial tenant for a POC and testing purposes, but another is just to put the customer to run real business there because you are putting them at risk as you have experienced by yourself. To be 100 % sure you are fully "protected" against trial side effects is better to buy production licenses as soon as your customer asks you to start using Office 365 for business and not for testing purposes
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I agree with the observations already made that a test tenant is just that - a test. It is not a production environment. If you want production-quality support, then you should pay for it. I'm sorry for the trouble experienced in this case, but anyone who lets a customer move their production data into a test environment is asking for trouble. A test Office 365 tenant is essentially an entity that can be torn down at any time - and you should expect that to be the case. Once you start paying for a service, you can demand that service, but when you're facilitating people to do work on a service that they get for free, then I am afraid that you have to accept all the consequences of that decision, like the possibility that data might be lost, service interrupted, or that you lose access to the service at any time.

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To me, a trial means the ability to test a system's suitability or performance.  It's often difficult to test something without real data.  A 'test' mailbox is vastly different than a 40GB mailbox with 20 years of calendar data.  Performance is different.  Testing one user is different than testing many users.

 

When I get a trial or evaluation of Windows Server software, Adobe CS, AutoCad, I get the full software for some time period.  Again, a paid license key can be added to the installed product to end the time limitations of the trial.  I'm not expected to uninstall the server or the software after the trial period, I just swap out a license key.  This is the same as Office 365.  If the trial is only expected for test/dev data, why does the option to covert a trial to a paid subscription exist?  Wouldn't this only need to exist if the trial had production data in it?

 

And that's the rub here.  Clearly the only differences between a paid and a trial subscription are the "license" and Microsoft's internal policies towards handling the different subscription types.  The underlying software and services are identical.

 

The consensus here (among MVPs) seems to be that Microsoft treats trials differently - they can be shut down at any time.  I don't remember seeing anything to this effect when I signed up for the trial.  Some freeware (non-Microsoft software) will cripple trial versions but the user is provided the details of the trial limitations up front.

 

Can anyone point me to Microsoft documentation that outlines the limitations of Office 365 trials?  All I can find is numerous forum posts that state the only difference between the trial and paid subscription is the time limitation.

 

Going forward, we won't use Office 365 trials with production data anymore.  However, Microsoft offers free trials for lots of products - $200 in Azure credits for first year.  Are these also governed by internal, non-published polices that allow Microsoft to shutdown services for any reason without notifying the customer first?  Are these credits not for production use?  If I have a customer with a $1,000 spend, and they use $200 Azure trial credits can Microsoft shut off any $200 of services anytime?

 

 

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To stay in your anology, it's like you get Adobe Photoshop trial edition, use it to do your work, and after 30 days the product is rendered unusable (expires), and you need to buy a license (or not) to be able to continue using it. Now, in this scenario, you find this probably normal, but when it comes to a SaaS product like Office 365 you don't and start to complain that you can't use Photoshop for work - did I understand this correctly? Also, the shutdown is not for 'no reason' - your trial expired.

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Michel -

 

The trial did NOT expire.  We were less than 14 days in when we were shut off the first time.  After the initial outage, Microsoft restored the trial and extended it for one YEAR as compensation for being without email and office applications for 6 hours.  Two days later, the automated system disabled the trial subscription again and we were forced to convert to a paid subscription immediately to restore service.  We are now a paying customer.

 

If the 30 day trial was expired, I'd have no complaint.  We were shut off twice within the first17 days.  

 

Microsoft has been unable to provide a reason the trial was disabled.  Some automated system flagged the account as fraud.  We have no idea why and they are investigating this.  We were flagged twice for fraud.  The second time we were shutoff was after we were told that we would NOT be shutoff again and the license portal showed one year trial expiring 1/4/2019.

 

One of two things happened here - either someone at the company was engaged in fraudulent activity (unlikely in this case) or Microsoft's automated fraud detection incorrectly identified this account as fraudulent.  As a partner and admin, Microsoft should provide me the details of WHY the account was flagged for fraud.  If it was something on our end (some internal system sending emails, etc), we would fix it and allow service to be restored.

 

It makes no sense to me that Microsoft can disable a customer without contacting them first.  It also makes no sense that it took 6 hours each time to restore service.  We didn't make any changes they just flipped a switch a turned us back on.  This leads me to believe that it was their system that mistakenly identified the account as fraud.  Let's face it - if we were engaged in fraud, they would not have turned us back on twice.

 

So, this is not the same as a Photoshop trail expiring after 30 days.  It would be the same as a Photoshop trial that promised 30 days, expiring after 14 days, then Adobe re-enabling the trial for one year and apologizing to us and promising us they wouldn't shut us off again without contacting us first.  Then two days later, Adobe shut us off again without contacting us.

 

 

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Whether the trial was extended or not, it was still a trial. I am not a lawyer, but I have worked with lawyers enough to understand that the word "trial" cannot be equated to "production." Anyone who assumes that they can move workload to a trial platform and expect that platform to be as stable, supportable, and reliable as a paid-for production-quality service is just plain wrong. This is not a consumer platform that has unknown characteristics. Office 365 has been available for over six years and is a well-understood platform. You only need a trial to validate that some stuff works the way you think it does or to understand how some on-premises workload can be moved to the cloud. But you never use a trial tenant for production work... and any CIO or customer executive who accepts that it is a good idea to move their mission critical workloads to a trial system needs to reconsider their decision making process.

 

TR

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We think the same. But for customer real migration when the real licenses are on the way (migration date is close, the deal is closed, papers signed, only activation keys to VLSC does not still arrive), we go with trial licenses extended by Fast Track team. This is the only way as Microsoft encourage to do with trials for some real-world workloads. Extending with Billing Support is only for testing and showcases.
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In 365, it is the user subscription / license that is the trial - not the system / platform / infrastructure.

This is borne out by the fact that you can add trials to an existing tenant in which you have paid subscriptions - e.g. pay for E1, but trial Azure Information Protection.

I don't find it inconceivable that the issue experienced here could just as easily be experienced by a paying customer - the actions of an automated system deeming some action in some way fraudulent.
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When it comes to trial we test the feature and over all functionality. You don't want to test the stress test in this particular Office 365 / EXO. They run millions of accounts so I will be ok they can handle the load. For me If I want to test and show the demo with some real/production account I'd would want to show them the feature across the Office 365 from EXO to One dRive and Teams and how all work together. I'd never put all the 40 production mailboxes. Trial starts with some test user. Same way If there is a company with 1000 employees I am not going to start a a trial with 1000 user. I'd start or pick 10 people who are either influencer or decision maker for example. 

 

The point I'm making you did't plan that way.

 

Even for Microsoft Fast Track I'd do the same and always think about the risk. 

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When you sign up to a trial you accept the terms of the Trial agreement you can read here :-

 

https://www.microsoft.com/online/legal/v2/?docid=20

 

Within this you'll see the statement :-

 

6. Warranties.

a. No warranties. The Online Services and Licensed Software are being provided under this agreement on a temporary basis for use with your Trial Subscriptions. No warranties are provided under this agreement.

b. DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES. EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT PROHIBITED BY APPLICABLE LAW, WE DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES, EXPRESS, STATUTORY OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION (i) REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, SATISFACTORY QUALITY, TITLE OR NON-INFRINGEMENT, (ii) REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES ARISING THROUGH COURSE OF DEALING OR USAGE OF TRADE, AND (iii) REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES THAT ACCESS TO OR USE OF THE PRODUCTS WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR-FREE. THESE DISCLAIMERS WILL APPLY UNLESS APPLICABLE LAW DOES NOT PERMIT THEM.

 

It should be up to your customer to decide if they want to trust their company email etc under such terms, it clearly leaves you at significant risk of loss of service. As far as I've ever seen no companies provide free trials and accept any commercial liability, it would be crazy to do so, lots of exposure and no reward. Most would conclude that they couldn't use their business data or services without protection, but would be happy to use it for non-production with non real data.

 

It sounds like Microsoft have had serious issues with this trial, it would certainly be interesting to know if the credit card provided for the trial triggered the fraud detection.

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It happened to me a week into the free trial.  The same long mess, downtime, wasted hours and days.  Still no service back.  It took me years to move to the cloud.  Now that I did I wonder if MS office was the best choice.

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Hello @Chuck Marangola 

 

one of our partner organisations has exactly the same problem. 

Please, how did you sovle it? Because MS support doesn't do anything?

 

Thank you!

 

PB