Friday, June 23, 2006

The banned post

The article below was posted on Spymac but got deleted and I got banned for it. I can see how Spymac wants to hide its dirty laundry, but I think it's important to let other Spymac customers know what they are getting into. So, it's posted here out of reach of sly Spymac admins.


I am out.

I finally got my domain back from SpaceTrend and I did not pay. Initially, I wrote very friendly emails to David Stonies, who runs SpaceTrend. Unfortunately, I ran into a brick wall - David would not budge and stubbornly demanded payment until mid 2007 even if I wanted to change the provider right now. The whole claim seemed ridiculous to me and I contacted law firm Eisenbeis Rechtsanwälte that was recommended to me and spoke with a Mario Hoffmann from their Dresden office, who specializes in IT, e-commerce and contract law.

In the last minute, however, I got an email from an Andre Schilling at SpaceTrend, who, in a complete u-turn of attitude, offered to transfer my domain. So, here it is: life and free bustspammers.com in all its simplicity.

In all fairness, I have to say that AFAIK Mr. Hoffmann had not contacted SpaceTrend yet, but I had told them I would pursue the matter further and let someone else decide the case. Honestly, I almost wish this had gone to court. I'm just curious how a judge would have decided.

I believe there's a good chance Andre Schilling and David Stonies is actually the same person. Not only came their emails from the same address, but also from the same IP, sent over a cell phone network from the same mobile device. It's also interesting that David Stonies is listed as the owner and operator of Spacetrend everywhere, yet he suddenly gets overruled by a Andre Schilling who is never mentioned anywhere in relation with Spacetrend. Finally their emails showed similar patterns of spelling and grammar mistakes. Perhaps David realized he has no leg to stand on and wanted to save face by using a different name.

I thought I might share a few more things that I learned along the way.


Spymac and Spacetrend are closely related
  • David Stonies and Dominic Geisler are friends and colleagues at Clanotopia
    See Google cache page. This page might expire at some point, but as of now it clearly shows both of their bios side by side as managers of a commercial fan club the two are running with Clanotopia. See also here under "Cheyenne": "Ich bin Dave Stonies und war bis zum 28.2.2005 zuständiger Fanclub-Manager für Vanilla Ninja bei Clanotopia."
  • SpaceTrend uses Clanotopia servers
    The IP for spacetrend.com is 193.25.114.101 Check here.
    193.25.114.101 belongs to Clanotopia with Spymac's Dominic Geisler as registered owner. Check here.
So if you go with Spacetrend, you essentially have been handed off from one Clanotopia customer to another.


Spacetrend is not a real company

It's a name for a business, sure. But it's not a company by itself. Spacetrend is run by D. Stonies as sole proprietor. That's why he must use his full personal name and can't use any company indicator, such as Inc., Ltd. or GmbH. But even sole proprietors, if their activities exceed a certain scope and size, are treated as real companies (Kaufmannseigenschaft) and must register in the Ha ndelsregister, a mandatory registry for all companies in Germany. Spacetrend is not registered and takes advantage of an exemption for small businesses, which "in kind and volume do not require a properly established company." (rough translation of §1(2) HGB). This exemption is for instance so that uncle John, who frequently sells selfmade handicrafts on the flea market or a teacher who tutors in her spare time don't have unnecessary red tape. Now you know what league Spacetrend plays in.

For what it's worth, Spacetrend is not even listed in the phone book, neither under Spacetrend nor under Stonies and not in the Yellow Pages either.

And oh, Google Maps is a great thing - wanna see Spacetrend headquarters? What, it looks more like a single-family home surrounded by fields to you? Well, what do you expect from a business that does not require a properly established company? Still surprised he billed some poor chap all the way back to 1970?

Speaking of Google. How many Google hits do you think should a hosting company get that boasts on its homepage "Since 2003, SpaceTrend has been providing targeted, secure and reliable services to corporations, small businesses and B2B." (BTW, what's the difference between serving businesses and B2B??) Hmm, not counting the recent mentionings here at Spymac, how about six? And even of those six only TWO hits actually refer to this "company" - its own homepage and a Wikipedia article about Spymac. The other 4 are listings of expired domains. How's that for an experienced, established company?


Spacetrend has no IT infrastructure

As shown above, Spacetrend has no servers of its own, it uses Clanotopia servers. That's called reselling, a common practice in the hosting industry. If you stay with Spacetrend you need to be aware that you're actually being served by Clanotopia.

Maybe that's a real company? Kind of. It takes advantage of new EU rules and is registered as a Ltd. in the UK although it operates in Germany. That allows Dominic Geisler to circumvent the more stringent requirements for the German equivalent, the GmbH. In particular, a GmbH needs a minimum of €25,000 in capital. Clanotopia IT Ltd.'s capital is all of €10,000. Think for yourself how far you get trying to build a hosting infrastructure with about $12,500!

That means they must be renting resources from yet another company, apparently Interxion. This should give you an idea of how fast *Spacetrend* could solve any hardware-related problems for you, the the buyer from the buyer from the buyer from the real provider.

More interestingly, every email I ever got from them, whether from "Andre Schilling" or from "David Stonies", was sent from the same Windows laptop connected to the E-Plus GPRS cellular network. GPRS speeds are roughly comparable with dial-up modems. I'm wondering: does David Stonies' hosting "company" not even have a decent DSL line?


More about Clanotopia

The fact that Clanotopia runs the Spymac servers and now also the Spacetrend servers should give everyone who ever had reliability issues with Spymac the shudders. But I found a few more tidbits.

Clanotopia also runs YourWebStart, a hosting service. There are tons of threads in other forums complaining about YourWebStart or YWS, for example here where Dominic Geisler is actually threatening the forum master with lawyers demanding to take down the posts. On ciao.de, a review website, YWS got mostly bad reviews. To prop it up a little bit, Dominc Geisler reviewed his own company there, of course with stellar feedback. Too bad for him that he got caught.

Also the fanclub that David Stonies and Dominic Geisler ran together got lots and lots of complaints. They promised their customers services that they had no way of delivering (Spymac hosting customers, sounds familiar?) They posed as an "official" fan club sanctioned by the band's label although they only "talked about it" with them. But it was enough for Clanotopia to try and strong-arm other fan clubs even in other countries to join Clanotopia and pay €20 membership fee. Didn't work, fortunately. It got so bad that the label actually distanced itself from Clanotopia, specifically mentioning Spacetrend's Dave Stonies by name.

As I said, Clanotopia is a Ltd. company. To establish a Ltd. you need at least two entities (persons or other companies). It seems Dominic Geisler didn't have a real partner, so he used the services of a René de la Porte, who made a business out of acting as a straw man for wannabe non-UK Ltd owners. Since they need an address in the UK, he even lends his address to dozens of them, essentially establishing letterbox companies. Interestingly, René de la Porte's name also shows up in various posts connecting him to domain stealing, a practice that takes advantage of a technical glitch where domains are unregistered for seconds during a transfer.

I'm not saying that Clanotopia is involved in the latter, but it's certainly good to know what kind of people the company associates with. It also means that Dominic Geisler uses the facade of a repspectable shared-responsibility Ltd. for a litlle €10,000 one-man show. Legally, there's nothing wrong with this, but potential customers should be aware.

The thin capital base also means that if he needs more cash, it must be debt. Now, what do you think how much of a buffer Clanotopia has to last through bumpy times and unforseen events?

Also, as an UK Ltd. Clanotopia is required to file certain documents with the British Companies House. If it's any indication for its reliability, Clanotopia's accounts are overdue since Oct 2005, the return is overdue since March.

But what do you really expect of a company whose corporate motto is "Fuck the World!" Assuming that every customer and business partner is from this world, how does that make you feel?


1centnethosting vs. SpaceTrend

Spymac claims to have acted in its customers' best interest by choosing Spacetrend. Everyone who read so far probably already has a creepy feeling that this is just a bunch of bollocks. Anyone happy here with their "generous" 30% discount? Have you all seen 1centhosting? Oh, what's that, same name, same address as Spacetrend? Yes, David Stonies runs this one, too. Hosting for 1 cent a day. Do the math, that is €3.65 per YEAR! Sure, there is a €15 setup fee and domains are extra. But still, how does that compare to what Spacetrend demanded from you?

Not that I think 1centhosting would be an excllent choice, but if Spymac absolutely had to hand off their hosting customers to their crony, couldn't they at least have offered us those conditions?

Honestly though, I wonder how sustainable it is to offer unlimited data transfer for €3.65 per year (actually €3.15 before 16% sales tax). But that's not my problem. 1centhosting runs on the same Clanotopia server as Spacetrend (193.25.114.101) and according to their announcement is in the end served by Interxion. Opinions on the web (there are a few more Google hits for 1centhosting) are mostly cautious and point out that David Stonies has not track record as a hoster.


Legal Aspects

I saw a few people here talking about suing Spacetrend. A few things to think about: Spacetrend is German. That means in principal you need a lawyer who can practice in Germany. Mr. Hoffmann would have worked for me but it's obviously more difficult if you're not German.

According to Mr. Hoffmann, US-type class action suits don't exist in Germany, so initially everyone will be on their own. However, the judge can decide to combine individual cases. If anyone else wants to pursue this route, you should get together, find one lawyer who files all your cases and then requests to have them combined. You can ask your lawyer about "Streitgenossenschaft".

German lawyers don't work on contingency. That means you'll have to pony up first, and it won't be cheap. You can recoup your costs though if you win.

On the other side, even Germans can actually bring a class action suit in the US against a German firm if the matter is related to the US. This may be the case if there are US citizens involved and the service was offered in the US. International legal aid agreements might help with enforcing a judgement. Actually, I think this may be worth looking into.

What's the chance of winning this? Not too bad. You could argue that the Spymac TOS, including the 99.5% uptime guarantee are part of the contract you entered into. Breach of contract occured when Spymac violated these terms. This can easily be documented, for example here (safe that thread and quoted posts, Spymac might "lose" them). I also have a log of several outages. The fact that Spymac didn't charge could be seen as a confirmation that the contract was void. In this case, David Stonies would have no contract to base his claims on and his requests for payment with the 30% discount would simply be an offer for a new contract that you may or may not agree to. The fact that he tries to coerce you to enter into this new contract by holding your domain hostage might be held against him, too.

And of course, if you can show that you actually tried to cancel and move away from Spymac, even better.


That's all. I just thought these facts might help others making their decision what to do about this Spacetrend thing. If I had known then what I know now about Clanotopia and its links to Spymac, I would never have paid for Spymac hosting in the first place. Now that my domain has no connection to Spymac anymore and whith what has become of Spymac, I have no reason to come here again. I may reply if there are any more questions, but this will be the last thread I ever post in.

Dude2 aka Dude