ProtonMail blocks access to e-mails when invoice not paid, instead of automatically downgrading the account to a free plan

ProtonMail has blocked me from accessing my e-mails due to an unpaid invoice without any prior warning, instead of downgrading my account to a free plan.

I subscribed to a paid ProtonMail plan by using a Black Friday discount approximately 2 years ago. My main incentive was supporting ProtonMail’s efforts for protecting privacy and security in e-mail communications.

When I recently checked the status of my subscription out of curiosity, I noticed that my subscription period was already ended and ProtonMail automatically tried to renew my subscription for 2 years with a full price without my knowledge. The payment page showed that they issued an invoice for that, which was never sent to me, and tried to collect the amount in the invoice from the credit card they stored (I don’t remember that I have approved them to save my credit card information, I probably have forgotten it). They could not collect the amount because my credit card in their record was expired. All of this happened without my knowledge.

As far as I remember, I have never intended to make a subscription that renews for 2 years in the first place.

I have tried to downgrade my account as soon as I notice that my subscription period was ended. However, ProtonMail did not let me downgrade my account to a free plan, for the reason that the number of my addresses (custom domains, I guess) is more than the amount allowed in the free plan.

I tried to delete the additional addresses of my custom domains. However, it was not possible either… ProtonMail did not let me delete my addresses for the reason that there were associated e-mails from those accounts. I downloaded all my e-mails, deleted all associated e-mails and tried to remove my additional addresses again, however, ProtonMail still did not let me remove the addresses for the same reason. I don’t know why.

And after that, I realized today that I suddenly lost access to all my e-mails…

What would I expect instead?

  • ProtonMail could have processed my downgrade request immediately by making my additional e-mail accounts inoperable.
  • ProtonMail could have automatically downgraded my account to a free plan, instead of blocking my access to my e-mails.
  • ProtonMail should have warned me before they block my access to my e-mails.
  • ProtonMail should have been more clear about the renewing subscription. I have never intended to make a subscription which automatically renews for 2 years with a full price. At least they could renew it with the same discount rate, or by applying the current Black Friday discount.

This is not a customer-friendly approach in my opinion, especially in this day and age, where e-mail is a primary way of communication. This is the first time in my life I am losing access to my primary e-mail account. I am disappointed with ProtonMail today for this bad experience. I was a volunteer in promoting ProtonMail to my friends and family until this day. Blocking their users accessing their e-mails without warning is a great way for ProtonMail to permanently lose their users, supporters and paying customers. 

I have immediately contacted to ProtonMail support via e-mail. I requested a downgrade to a free plan or cancellation of the invoice issued for 2 years and a change of my subscription to a monthly one if a downgrade is not possible for any reason. I will upgrade this post when I get a reply from them.

Update:

I have got a reply from ProtonMail. They wrote to me that their policy does not allow them to make any account changes on their users’ behalf. This is their explanation for not downgrading my account to a free plan.

After some more effort, I have managed to switch to a free plan today, however, even after the switch, I was still blocked. 🙂 Another unpaid invoice was issued for $4.17 for 16 days passed after my subscription. I have paid this amount to gain access to my primary e-mail as soon as possible, although I felt I should not owe this amount because it was not my fault that I could not downgrade my account. I have stated this in my e-mail to them.

In their reply, they said that they noted my complaints, but they did not offer to refund the last invoice.

ProtonMail will no longer be my primary e-mail and I don’t think I will be a volunteer for them anymore.

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