What is so special about YAK’s VOIP?

Another example of the importance of reading Terms of Service contracts …

Earlier this week, YAK Communications Inc. announced several new services: YakforFree and YaktoAnyone. Both services are based upon CounterPath’s (formerly XTEN) eyeBeam voice/video/IM SIP softphone. YakforFree allows users to set up video conversations with other YakforFree subscribers. YaktoAnyone is a prepaid VOIP service with competitive dialout rates (about 2 cents per minute for North America, as an example). If you know what you are doing, YaktoAnyone can also be configured for use with other SIP compatible softphones and VOIP hardware. For the most part, I consider these services to fall into the “me too” category. However, a closer look at YAK’s WorldCity VOIP service uncovered some interesting items.

1. Their so called “unlimited” CAD$24.95/US$19.95 per month offering is actually limited to 2500 outbound domestic (US and Canada PSTN) minutes per month. Minutes that exceed this limit charged at YAK’s prevailing rates (with respect to rates, Vonage Canada prices their comparable service at CAD$39.99 per month while Packet 8 is available for US$19.95 per month);

2. However, unlike competitors a number of other VOIP competitors, including Vonage, Rogers and Primus, YAK’s terms of service for their VOIP product do not appear to prohibit use for business/commercial purposes.

What does this mean? Well, according to the terms of use for Vonage or Vonage Canada, or Primus if you subscribe to their residential VOIP service and use the service for any business-related purpose (which appears to include even making some business related calls in the evening or weekend), then you are at risk for retroactive charges based on their higher “business” rates.

The following is an extract from Yak’s WorldCity Unlimited’s Terms and Conditions:
Use of the Service shall not include certain activities including, but not limited to any autodialing, continuous or extensive call forwarding, continuous connectivity, fax broadcast, fax blasting, telemarketing or any other activity that would be inconsistent with residential use, unless specifically agreed to otherwise in writing by yak and You.
It does not actually prohibit any business or professional use.

The following is an extract from Primus’ General Terms and Conditions:
The Services (including rate plans) and any equipment are provided to You as a residential user, for Your conventional personal, residential, non-business and non-professional use only and may not be used in any other way or for any other purpose. You agree that Your use of the Services for commercial or any other non-residential purposes will obligate You to pay higher rates for those types of use. Primus reserves the right to immediately suspend, terminate or modify the Service if Primus determines in its sole discretion, that Your service is being misused, including, without limitation, use for non-residential or commercial purposes and usage exceeding conventional residential use.

The following is an extract from Vonage Canada’s Terms of Service:
If you subscribe to Vonage’s residential services, the Service and the Device are provided to you solely for residential use… We reserve the right to immediately terminate or modify your Service if we determine, in our sole and absolute discretion, that your use of the Service or the Device is, or at any time was, inconsistent with normal residential usage patterns. In addition, you will be required to pay our higher rates for commercial service for all periods in which your use of the Service or the Device was inconsistent with normal residential use.

It would be interesting to know whether the lack of comparable restrictions by Yak was an accidental omission or intentional. If intentional, one would think that Yak would promote its more consumer friendly distinction. Where terms and conditions provide a real benefit for potential customers, they should be highlighted.