back to article Sage denies misleading customers over perpetual licensing, users not happy

SME accounting software vendor Sage stands accused of misleading customers following statements detailing when clients will be forced to migrate to subscription-based licensing, enraging the user community. The vendor set a deadline of the end of September for its migration of Sage 50 Accounts or Sage 50cloud Accounts v26.2 or …

  1. Trollslayer

    Solid as

    Something, I just don't which something.

  2. terry 1

    There is a potential work around however. I found on one of the Sage KBs that if you install Sage with no internet, it will work fine and just requires the serial and activation codes. With this, I was able to find the account number key in the registry and delete it, then add specific firewall deny rules to block my Sage and so far has not nagged me.

    I posted a lot of my findings on accountingweb. So far the stand alone seem to be fine, the network versions need a few more tweaks, but ultimately no one will know if this works until the servers are shut down.

    1. MrReynolds2U

      Ok but will that still allow updates to keep you in line with legislation and reporting changes?

      1. terry 1

        If you don't have a subscription, it's not going to update anyway. But I still did my MTD VAT run this morning on my 3 years old version of Sage that's now locked down

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        For Payroll, obviously you need regular updates for tax changes, but for accounts, that doesn't change as often. If VAT rates change, you can edit those manually, and Brexit just means there are some tax codes you no longer use unless you are in Northern Ireland - ie treat transactions with France in the same way that you always treated transactions with Canada.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "vendor says it's been 'clear' "

    I'm sure it's been clear for the vendor, but given the amount of complaints, calls to salepeople and sheer to-and-fro, it's not that clear for customers.

    Besides, if you state publicly that customers with a support contract have a free upgrade, then where's the problem ?

    Something is not right here, and that something is simply that fact that Sage wants its customers to pay for a security upgrade that should be provided free of charge.

    Bad doggie. No biscuit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scum Sage

    In all seriousness, I knew a woman who'd turn scum into "sage" to burn away bad motives. It smelled horrible.

  5. teebie

    "When they start selecting, it presents a series of further questions to help them understand if and how they are impacted."

    And are these the questions they want to ask? Or the questions you want them to ask?

  6. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Clear fraud.

    They should have understood standards would change. And not thrown around the word 'perpetual'.

    they are still in business, they can allow those people perpetual access to the new versions. Free. As they already paid for it

  7. MJ71

    Well done TheRegister for staying with this saga.

    This TLS issue with threats of switch off has been used by Sage over many months to coerce users to enter into subscription agreements who already own perpetual software that was costing them nothing to run previously.

    Sage have known about the TLS issue since at least 2018. It should be clarified that some of the versions at risk are nowhere near 10 year old, versions at least as new as 2018 are impacted, possibly more recent.

    Sage are quoted as saying “We have been clear with our customers as to what versions of the software were impacted” – No, Sage, you have not. You initially stated that all versions 26.2 and below were impacted. That incorrect information was in place for months. You have now corrected that (after hastily updating your website in September when you were caught out by users on another forum) to clarify that only versions 23.1 to 26.2 are impacted. Innocent error or maximising sales?

    Sage also included more up to date TLS versions in some versions of the software for communications other than licencing, still leaving the bit that deals with licencing on the obsolete version. Sage have yet to explain why they did that. Could they have been keen to have a future justification to disable as many non-subscription versions as possible?

    If Sage are genuinely offering free upgrades to customers who have support contracts without forcing them into a subscription then that demonstrates that they have a version of the software available to fix the problem for the other impacted users. This is in essence fixing a problem that Sage knew about when some of this software was sold and in any case they had had at least four years to plan a work around for the initial design flaw of the licence process being seemingly hard coded to be dependent on technology that would inevitably change.

    1. terry 1

      "If Sage are genuinely offering free upgrades to customers who have support contracts without forcing them into a subscription"

      I don't believe they are. What Sage are saying is to have a support contract you are on a subscription, therefore you have access to the current version already. So it's not really a free upgrade as such

      1. MJ71

        When I questioned a Sales Sage rep about this the last time they gave a similar statement to TheRegister they said that it was possible to have the upgrade and remain on a perpetual licence, but only if you had a support contract. I asked therefore if we could take out a support contract to obtain the upgrade. They refused saying that Sage had not offered support contracts for perpetual licenses for some time!

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        If you are not on a support contract, the auto-update feature probably won't work, but you should be able to update manually by downloading the latest version from here

        Do a backup beforehand just in case it doesn't work.

  8. Why Not?

    The cloud is someone else's computer and a software subscription is someone else's code.

    There you go ladies & gents a the sales team want you to pony up every year.

    Shocked I tell you!!!!

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: The cloud is someone else's computer and a software subscription is someone else's code.

      but, the only thing that is cloudy about Sage 50 Accounts is their licencing. Everything else is very much locally installed software, so you don't get any of the benefits of cloud like being able to access it remotely, unless you set up your own RDP server and install it on that.

  9. Chris Coles

    Imagine; two centuries ago; when your mother bought a fine china bowl

    Imagine; two centuries ago; when your mother bought a fine china bowl . . . And the result was that at some point afterwards, the fine china bowl maker climbed through every window of every past customer and smashed the fine china bowl. From that moment onwards, she would have to pay a subscription to use the next bowl . . . that at any point in the future, the manufacturer could smash this new bowl if the subscription was not paid??

    What we are observing is the destruction of the concept of a purchase made in a classic free market; to be replaced with classic feudalism. I set out this debate in great detail with my free PDF book The Road Ahead from a Grass Roots Perspective, particularly chapter 4 and 5. The detail covers a substantial debate, go read it for yourselves.

    What we are witnessing is the complete rejection of a free market; which in turn has been replaced with classic feudalism. By accepting such feudalism, we destroy centuries of development of the concept of why we originally created the concept of a free market . . . Today all of our freedoms are being destroyed by people who do not believe in any form of free market; who instead insist that they can dictate every aspect of the way we all live . . . which is, again, classic feudalism.

    Do our governments fully understand that they now govern classic feudal nation's; that they have permitted the destruction of freedom; to replace that freedom with feudalism?

    1. cosymart

      Re: Imagine; two centuries ago; when your mother bought a fine china bowl

      @ Chris Coles

      You are "TheManFromMars" and I claim my £5

      Signed A Surf.

    2. MJ71

      Re: Imagine; two centuries ago; when your mother bought a fine china bowl

      Some might say that it was generous to use an analogy of a fine china bowl against Sage 50 Accounts, but your point is well made.

      The law and processes for governing these sorts of issues doesn’t seem to be keeping up with current times. This is going to present increasing difficulties for consumers of cloud and subscription based services, but what is remarkable about this case is that Sage are, as you say, climbing through the window and smashing the existing bowl upon which the customer has become dependent.

      I recently discussed this situation with an MP and the potential for serious impact to businesses if Sage carried out their threat and caused software to fail. Sage claim that they have contacted all impacted customers but the number of people still arriving at forums only just having discovered there is a potential problem casts doubt on that. This software is mostly used by small businesses who work under pressure at the best of times and will be substantially disrupted by suddenly loosing access to accounts data with all the implications of that. Unable to pay suppliers (you don’t know what you owe), unable to chase customers for money (you wont know what you are owed), unable to complete statutory procedures and reporting to HMRC… The difficulty is that the only potential recourse currently is for individual businesses to take action against Sage, dealing with complex technical and legal issues to fight a defendant backed by substantial wealth who will be able to present plausible arguments to defend their position. Even if if the customer wins, with the perpetual licence being so far as I understand classed as goods rather than a service, they may only win a refund on the cost of that purchase if the court says it has unreasonably failed, which is trivial compared to the replacement cost of the subscription.

      I used the analogy previously of a bag of potatoes. Sage apparently defined their perpetual license as being for 15 years. Some users have had about 4 years use of their software. If you had a shop that sold a bag of potatoes advertised as 15KG and on inspection it was discovered that they actually only put 4KG of potatoes in the bag, the council’s local trading standards would take an interest. There seems to be no equivalent protection in place for businesses. The attitude seems to be that if you don’t like how a vendor behaves then move to a different one, which is clearly not always straight forward.

      1. teebie

        Re: Imagine; two centuries ago; when your mother bought a fine china bowl

        "Some might say that it was generous to use an analogy of a fine china bowl against Sage 50 Accounts"

        If it helps, you can switch the analogy to have Sage be the equivalent of a pre-filled chamber pot .

      2. MPFJ

        Re: Imagine; two centuries ago; when your mother bought a fine china bowl

        "Some users have had about 4 years use of their software"

        We only got about 2 !!

        Based on the monthly pricing Sage quoted us, we have now switched to QBO. It has its own issues but it's waaaay cheaper.

  10. Mike Friedman

    Licensing? Clear? HAHAHAHAHAHA

    SAGE isn't even the worst. They're terrible, but so many companies are far worse.

    But pretending that your licensing mode is "clear" is absurd. All of us know that.

  11. MJ71


    A Sage spokesperson told The Register: "Customers who have an active support contract with Sage – whether it is perpetual or subscription – are entitled to the latest version of software, at no extra cost. Customers are not required to change their contract to a subscription to upgrade. If they have an active contract, there is no cost to upgrade."

    Sage have been using this line about customers having a support contract being provided with updated versions as a defense before. They try to use it as a means of shifting the blame to the customer, its your own fault, you should have taken out a support contract shouldnt you... Some customers have still reported difficulties in obtaining this upgrades. I now believe I understand the situation better.

    There are at least two types of Sage support agreements. A basic one (support but no upgrades) a more costly one, "SageCover Extra" that does include the upgrades. Neither is currently available to buy for perpetual product and its not clear how many customers retained cover by continually renewing. Basically, if I have understood this correctly, the ONLY sage (perpetual) Accounts Line 50 customers that are entitled to free upgrades, without moving to a subscription model, are those that still have a current subscription to SaveCover Extra.

    Does anyone actually still have that? Anyone??

  12. jimD01012000

    final reminder....Sage switch off on 11 Oct.

    ...sage final reminder received yesterday 6 Oct....they're switching off TLS1.0/1.1 on 11 there.

    Cough up, downgrade to v22, or switch to another provider. All pretty awful options really, except maybe the last.

    taking the corporate view for a second (they're a £1.8bn turnover listed plc) a group, perpetual licence holders such as us weren't generating any revenue for them. If we sign up, it's a bonus for them, and if we don't, it makes absolutely no difference to them.

    C'est la vie, I suppose, but it does seem pretty harsh.

    1. MJ71

      Re: final reminder....Sage switch off on 11 Oct.

      "they're a £1.8bn turnover listed plc"

      That's exactly why they should be held to account. Back to my analogy of the corner shop selling potatoes. Just because Sage is a very large business and the issues relating to why perpetual licence holders are being short-changed are complex compared to mislabeling a bag of potatoes, that should not make it immune from liability.

      I'm not sure that it wont make a difference to them longer term. I would be reluctant to recommend Sage products now for small business use unless there was a specific feature that the client needed, going back a few years we would rarely have recommended anything else. Accounts packages are often decided on, or shortlisted, by clients accountants or IT team, no one who has been involved in this saga over the past few years is going to forget about it in the near future.

      Sage will be able to claim in their next set of results that the percentage of subscriber/cloud income is up in line with company objectives - well done directors. You can't measure the public reputation of a business in annual results and over time that matters as well.

      I think it’s a strategic mistake. The problems are causing the old versions to not work and trying to force people to upgrade when it might not be convenient. Had Sage just been patient and continued to support perpetual (patching the TLS issue) and subscription, whilst simply stopping the sale of perpetual product, over time I guess most people would have moved over to the new structure without too much trouble as an when it was convenient to them and they needed a new feature.

      1. jimD01012000

        Re: final reminder....Sage switch off on 11 Oct.

        …I totally agree with you…pity you have not yet seen my earlier rant of 2+ pages which may not survive moderation…

        I’ve now seen the other thread on theregister, and from there the one on accountingweb, to which I’m seriously considering adding my support.

        I only wish I’d seen these earlier, as it would have saved me many days of time, not only in drilling down into sage executables, assemblies etc. to see exactly what my software was doing, but also in downgrading to v22, which I don’t think includes any of the assemblies which do the license check (I think v23+ definitely do).

        I even saw one post where a VM fully isolated v25 installation continues to work, which was the version I was on for the last three years since Sage last extorted money from me (over MTD, which I subsequently found out was more of the same extreme and disingenuous marketing practices that Sage are clearly now very well known for). Not only would this have saved me days, but I could have still been operating with all my historical transaction data (since 2010 at least), which I’ve now had to consign to the archive. I wonder if I can add a claim for compensation to the legal redress being sought??! Anyway, I’ll tone down my rant, and add it to the accountingweb thread.


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