Web hosts, stop lying about your prices

To every web host that advertises prices as a monthly cost, but only allows annual billing: Stop it. You are lying.

Exhibit 1: The current pricing grid for one of the most popular hosts (one I would never recommend to anyone), showing prices that start at, supposedly, $5.99 per month. I’ve annotated it to show the actual amount a new customer would pay. See the text highlighted in yellow? It means the supposedly-monthly cost has to be multiplied by 36 to yield the actual initial payment:

Exhibit 2: The current pricing grid at another host I do not recommend, which was also recently in the news for changing its pricing structure with no warning and gutting its free plan. The CEO repeatedly cited the “monthly” cost of its plans as being a good deal for customers, even though there is no way to pay monthly:

Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine a prospective renter, looking at apartments. One of the factors in choosing a place to live, of course, is the cost of the rent. Wouldn’t it be reasonable for this renter to become alarmed if they agreed to rent an apartment for $1,000 per month, and then discovered the fine print on the lease required a first payment of $12,000?

Web hosting is essentially renting space on a web server, so it’s not the craziest of comparisons.

This type of dishonest advertising is, unfortunately, standard in the web hosting industry. Even my second-favorite host, SiteGround, is guilty of this practice. Here’s their current pricing grid:

…and here’s the fine print (there isn’t even an asterisk leading to this):

I still use SiteGround, believe their hosting is reliable, and continue to refer clients to them — but I think they can and should be more honest with their pricing descriptions.

My first-favorite host, DreamHost, comes the closest to honesty. Their pricing grid features a big toggle at the top that lets you choose whether to display the prices as monthly, 1-year plans, and 3-year plans.

However, the price displayed for the 1+ year plans is still not the total; you have to do the multiplication math yourself to figure out your total (and the 3-year plan is selected as the default, but given that something has to be the default, that’s a minor quibble):

…and here’s the pricing grid for their premium hosting service, DreamPress, also featuring a monthly/annual toggle right at the top:

(Related note: I also think web hosts should be generally more transparent about the renewal rates that apply after new-customer special pricing deals expire. My clients routinely experience sticker shock when their annual (or biennial or triennial) hosting packages auto-renew, for instance.)

But if web hosts would just stop lying about their prices being monthly, that would be a big improvement.