Once warned their accounting software is set to be crippled in weeks, these business owners are forced to upgrade — or abandon Reckon in favour of a rival — in order to keep running their business.
Reckon has updated its terms and conditions for long-time QuickBooks and Reckon Accounts users to give it the right to “discontinue the software upon giving you at least 30 days’ prior written notice, in which event Reckon will offer you an alternative version of the software on commercial terms”. By “discontinue”, Reckon means deactivate.
Rival accounting software maker MYOB also recently ceased support for some older versions of its software, but has not taken away the right for customers to continue using the software.
Simon Gnieslaw, a Melbourne-based IT consultant who assists small businesses with their accounting software, says his customers have been caught out by Reckon’s changes.
Like Holden coming around to your house and ripping the engine out of your perfectly good car, just because it’s out of warranty.
One small business customer purchased QuickBooks Pro outright for $735 in 2014, but is now expected to pay $710 per year with — “after much haggling” — a 50 per cent discount for the first three years.
As the “Pro” version has been discontinued, the customer was forced to upgrade to the more expensive “Premier” subscription, rather than being permitted to downgrade to the cheaper “Accounting” subscription which would have met their needs.
“This customer was forced to upgrade under duress to keep their business running, as once deactivated the software is in an unusable state to actually run a business until the ransom is paid,” Gnieslaw says.
“A mere 30 days notice via email is not enough time for small business owners to evaluate rival accounting software and make the switch, so it’s either pay up now or watch your business suffer.”
A range of software makers are pushing hard to move customers onto subscription services — such as Microsoft’s Office 365 or Adobe’s Creative Cloud — rather than sell one-off copies, but Gnieslaw says “not even Microsoft has the gall to remotely kill everyone’s old outright copy of Word, so they’re forced to hand over more money.
“What Reckon has done is like Holden coming around to your house and ripping the engine out of your perfectly good car, just because it’s out of warranty. Worse yet, now imagine your business relies on that car, but Holden refuses to sell you another one and insists you sign a much more expensive rental agreement.”
Gnieslaw intends to report Reckon to the ACCC and Consumer Affairs Victoria, and also says Australians must start to push back against such behaviour and complain to their local politicians.
“I think it’s important that we call out those who try to take away our digital rights,” he says. “If we don’t make a stand now, the problem is only going to get much worse as we increasingly depend on technology for our day to day lives, and our ability to make a living.”
The decision to stop customers reactivating older versions of QuickBooks and Reckon Accounts was made “to help ensure our small business customers are operating on secure and stable accounting software,” according to a Reckon spokesperson.
“This practice is commonplace within the software industry to ensure surety of use, reducing any potential risk to customers using software that is not properly supported due to its operational environment and/or the legacy infrastructure in place,” the spokesperson says.
“Customers transitioning are being assisted through the process by our support team, including data migration and receiving heavily discounted offers for the improved technology.”
Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist and co-host of weekly podcast Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.