Good afternoon,

I believe I should begin by posting this as an hypothetical and leave out company/organization names, of which there are four involved, 1 website hosting company; two not-for-profit organizations, one a registered Community Interest Company and the other a constituted organization of Friends over 30 years old. The fourth company is a website design and build company that also hosts the sites it builds for 3rd parties via another company. This 5th company are not involved other than as an interested party inasmuch as they host sites among a multitude of other interests.

I am directly involved with both not-for-profit organizations, which I will refer to as A & B and I am also involved with the website hosting company which I will refer to as X, leaving the fourth company to be known as Y.

Firstly, a brief background to help with understanding my position in this problem:

I am the one with the most experience, in both A & B, of website design, building, managing and hosting. I look after everything to do with A's website; I designed, built and manage it myself. B rely on me for advice as well as practical help with their site. B is around half as old as A, has a lot less members but, conversely, more members interested in the site and allowed to 'have their say', which is unfortunate as only one member of B has any experience at all with websites, which was working with me on maintaining B's site in the early days. At that time, the site was constructed using Dreamweaver and Fireworks and managed by myself and the other member of B just mentioned. We are actually the Secretaries of the A and B; if you know anything about Secretaries, you will know they must do a lot of work if the organization hopes to succeed

I had a serious accident which drastically curtailed my work with A and caused me to cease all work with B.

[Incidentally, because it is an important factor here, all this 'work' is voluntary and I have never had, nor expected to have, nor ever will accept payment for such 'work' and I only mention this so you know my concerns are nothing to do with personal monetary gain on my part. I am posting this because I see an injustice being perpetrated against a group of people who only do what they do to help others.]

Once well enough to resume my involvement with B I was horrified and disappointed to learn that they had successfully applied for funding to have the site redesigned with open source software, believing more of their members would be able to add content themselves, without said content having to be added to the site through myself and/or my counterpart in B. The horror and disappointment?? Well, they had paid an awful lot more than was really necessary for the redesign. The same work could have been done for a lot less.

B had also agreed to allow Y to host the site during the redesign and relaunch; by mutual agreement, and because B went through a lot of discussion before decisions were arrived at, 12 months was felt to be the optimum period of this hosting agreement.

I use X to host my site for A and have done, without a single problem other than those caused by me, which X immediately 'fixed' by advising me how or doing it themselves within 24 hours - mostly less than 12 actually, so I had no hesitation in relating
that to a meeting of B's members and offering to arrange a change of host from Y to X as soon as the 12 months passed. It was essential, from a financial point of view that B found a new host because Y, who had already charged well over the odds for the work carried out on the redesign, were also charging more than TEN TIMES the amount I was paying X for a far superior hosting service.

Following much discussion it was agreed I would arrange for X to host B's site from the end of February 2017, when the current agreement between B and Y ended. I also pointed out to B that the sooner the transition took place, the better. So, in mid January 2017 B's Sec and I met at B's offices and set the change over in motion.

A lot of emails have been sent from all parties involved - other than the 5th one, of course - since then and the situation looks quite grim for B, I am sorry to say.

It seems that Y, who also wanted to charge another substantial amount of money to 'package up the B site files ready for transfer' ?!! [something I have never heard of being necessary to transfer a site from one host to another in my many years of working with website design and management] sent a link to B so that B could then download the files to their own PC then forward them on to X. These are totally alien procedures to me and most everyone I mention it to who have even a vague notion of site hosting procedures/protocols.

It is now well into February and there has been no progress at all in getting the site files to X because, from what I read in the email threads that I am blind copied into by my B counterpart, Y cannot give X files that have the correct extension. It seems the 5th company that have been hosting the site on behalf of Y for B use a .dev extension which, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, cannot be altered nor made to work on X's servers.

This, of course, means that B, in order to keep their site live, are going to be forced to continue paying Y's obscene and totally unreasonable hosting fees until such time as, if ever, X can get the site onto their servers.

Personally, I believe Y are being deliberately obtuse in this matter so they can continue to take B for as much as possible, but I cannot say that to them. It is a delicate situation, to say the least, but there is no doubt in my mind that Y think they have been given an opportunity to increase their profit margin considerably at the expense of a well meaning group of people who rely on grants to survive and continue to help others. It is quite annoying.

As I pointed out at the start of this post, I cannot name names so there is a distinct possibility all of the above is a bit foggy, perhaps; however, I am hoping someone will be able to offer some useful advise as to how I can proceed to solve this issue.

Am I, for example, in a position to report Y to any kind of regulatory body/organization?

It may appear to some people that B are getting all they deserve for being so ignorant and naive and that Y, despite being so obviously uncaring, perhaps even a little greedy and not completely honest are quite entitled to make as much as they can. That their actions, on the face of it, seem legitimate enough is questionable. I mean, how many other organizations are tied to them for hosting because it is impossible to keep their site live unless they can find another host that can utilize the .dev files?

The 5th company are huge and well known for everything BUT web hosting and I, for one, had no idea they did anything of that nature. Is it acceptable that a company should use a file extension for site files that cannot be moved to and used by another hosting company? It appears to me that Y are forcing B to remain with them as hosts and that, in itself, is unconscionable.

What, if anything, can I do to help B out of this nightmare scenario?

I will answer any questions I can that will not compromise me, A, B or X. I am not sure what the consequences would be were I to put a name to Y and the 5th company, but I am pretty certain it would not turn out well for myself or my colleagues at A.

I look forward to hearing any suggestions or comments.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

Gemini566