Beware No Fee Guarantee

Many data recovery companies promise a “no data, no charge” guarantee. DriveSavers is one of them. But what, precisely, does that statement mean? And does it mean the same thing for all data recovery companies?

You better toss aside any preconceived notions when it comes to interpreting the fine print. Read on to find out why.

Open to Interpretation

Does “no data, no charge” mean that the data the customer actually wants must be recovered for there to be a charge? Or does it mean that if any data is recovered at all, the customer still has to pay? How much data needs to be recovered for the customer to be charged full price? How much data must be unrecoverable for the full charge to be waived?

It turns out that this “promise” means different things to different companies. Sometimes, what it means to the company is not what the customer thought it meant.

David Platt’s Story

Pay close attention to what happened to David Platt, whose bad experience with a data recovery company turned into a Bay Area TV news story.

Platt’s hard drive crashed last year. He thought he was covered by a good backup, but it was incomplete.

Platt was missing several key files, so he went shopping for a data recovery company to help him get back the important accounting information and emails from his dysfunctional computer.

He chose a company called Secure Data Rescue, based in part on an advertisement that promised a “No Data, No Charge” guarantee. Platt sent the company his failed hard drive along with a list of priority files and a payment of $383.

What he got back wasn’t very helpful. It included data but none of the accounting files and email content he requested.

“A lot of stuff was there, some of it readable, some of it not, but none of the precious files I really wanted,” Platt told KNTV, the NBC affiliate in San Jose. “I think I qualify for a refund.”

That refund wasn’t in the cards, however, since the data recovery company’s policy included one very important disclaimer. There is no specific guarantee that any one file, or group of specific files, will be recoverable.

The Fine Print

The TV station learned that policy at Secure Data Rescue is that if ANY data is recovered—whether it’s important to the customer or not—full price is charged.

The TV station checked with 33 different data recovery companies around the country and found that 24 of those companies used the same type of policy as Secure Data, which means they get paid even if they get only one meaningless file back for any customer.

Luckily, Platt’s bank sided with him and withdrew the payment, but there is still a problem.

Platt says the data recovery company is threatening to sell a copy of his data to the highest bidder in order to recover its costs!
“I immediately thought: This is what extortion feels like,” Platt told KNTV. “I felt like they sent the guys with the baseball bats to my house.”

But the contract says that Secure Data Rescue “may take all steps necessary, including selling the data, to recoup the costs” of a dispute.

“Not only is my data not really rescued, it’s not really secure,” Platt said. “So, Secure Data Rescue is nothing.”

The DriveSavers Difference

DriveSavers works differently. There is truly no charge unless the data requested by the customer is actually recovered in good working order.

That’s the way DriveSavers has operated since the company pioneered the data recovery industry in 1985, and there are no plans to change their strict performance guarantee.

“Even if we get good data back for a customer, we will not charge the customer a dime unless the data recovered is the data they really need,” said Scott Moyer, DriveSavers president. “And, those recovered files have to work and function just as good as the original or there is no charge. Anything less just isn’t fair. You don’t pay the baker the same price for a crumb as you do for a whole loaf of bread,” Moyer said. “That’s just not fair and at DriveSavers we don’t do business like that.”

Shopping Tips

What should a consumer do when they lose data in order to avoid becoming a victim like Mr. Platt?

Moyer’s first tip is to contact the manufacturer of the device that failed and explain what happened. The company may be able to help repair the device or fix the problem. If not, the manufacturer will recommend a reputable service provider who can perform data recovery. As he says, “If it’s an Apple device, call Apple. If it’s a Western Digital device, call Western Digital. Whoever the manufacturer of your drive, phone or other data storage device, they’ve already done the work and vetted the data recovery company for you.”

His second tip is to contact your company’s IT department or Help Desk for help. They may be able to make repairs or refer you to a specialist who might be able to help (like DriveSavers). Like the manufacturers, the professional IT personnel at your company have already done the work to vet companies and know who they trust.

Lastly, if you have a local computer store or IT professional that you trust, you can use them as a sounding board for what to do.

Of course, anyone with a data recovery issue can call DriveSavers directly and talk to a data recovery professional about their problem. Just call 800.440.1904.

In the meantime, Platt has filed a complaint about Secure Data Rescue with the Federal Trade Commission.

The Full Story

Here are two videos from KNTV’s coverage of this story:

Man’s Data Recovery Dilemma Costs Hundreds

Watch the first part of David Platt’s story on the NBC Bay Area website.

Man’s Hard Drive Trouble Leads to Extortion

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