Quicken Users Can't Put Stock in Intuit Reliability

Intuit's never-ending campaign to force customers to upgrade by crippling older versions of its software has reached a new low. Quicken 2005 owners have been receiving "discontinuation" notices that as April 30, 2008, all the program's online functions will be turned off. That's become Intuit's standard M.O., of course, but what makes it worse than ever is how the company has been ignoring complaints that one

Intuit's never-ending campaign to force customers to upgrade by crippling older versions of its software has reached a new low. Quicken 2005 owners have been receiving "discontinuation" notices that as April 30, 2008, all the program's online functions will be turned off. That's become Intuit's standard M.O., of course, but what makes it worse than ever is how the company has been ignoring complaints that one of those online features - downloading stock quotes -- often gives wildly inaccurate data.

Around this time each year we hear from Quicken (and QuickBooks) customers who've just discovered that a perfectly fine program they bought a few years ago is about to be rendered useless by Intuit under its arbitrary sunset policies. One cosmetic change this time is that Intuit is apparently sunsetting the "sunset" term itself, opting instead to now call its crippleware tactics a "discontinuation" policy instead. So Quicken 2005 - a program that can hardly do anything without phoning home for the latest popup ads Intuit wants to force on its users -- has recently been displaying this "Critical Notice for Quicken 2005 Users":

"As of April 30th, 2008, in accordance with the Quicken discontinuation policy, Online Servers and live technical support will no longer be available for Quicken 2005 users. Immediate Action Required."

This notice has been particularly unpleasing to those who have had problems getting accurate stock quotes via Quicken's online download feature. "Unfortunately, the problem does not appear to resolved by upgrading to the 2008 version," says a reader who first told us early last year about Quicken downloading stock prices incorrectly and Intuit's indifference to the problem. "I got the notice that Quicken 2005 would no longer be able to retain online functionality, so I did upgrade because updating stock quote info is one of the primary reasons I use the software. But it's having virtually the same problem I originally wrote to you about - specifically you go to update stock and mutual fund prices and it's hit or miss whether they update or not. There have been a large number of frustrated users writing about this on the Quicken community forums, so perhaps they are now taking action. However, as a long time user I do think it is wrong to market a product that seems to have become less and less dependable. Worse yet, until now it seems Intuit was unwilling to take the time to listen to their customers and respond to what many of us feel were serious errors with the product."

For some reason, the biggest problems of all involve Canadian stock quotes. "Since June of last year, the Intuit servers have been distributing inaccurate stock quote data to both Mac and PC users of Quicken," wrote a Mac Quicken user. "A large percentage of equities traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange are generally quoted at ten times the actual value. Others are quoted at one-tenth reality. For example, in the download I just did, they quoted Bell Canada (BCE) trading at $385.00. In fact, BCE is trading at $38.50. It's a great way to make one's portfolio grow! Even the Quicken web site consistently misquotes Canadian equities, and has been doing so since June. Intuit's response has been 'please be patient, we're working on it.' Intuit issued a patch for the PC version of Quicken back in the fall, which according to some PC users was problematic, but none has been forthcoming for Quicken for Mac. In fact, a senior contact in Quicken tech support told me that they are NOT working on a patch for Mac users. Instead, they are prioritizing their development resources to work on the next Quicken release. Apparently, they'd rather get a bunch of new customers to buy Quicken 2008 than address serious defects in the current release. That is a recurring theme with this company. It's sad to see how far Quicken has fallen. They were once the leader in personal financial software -- now they can't even deliver accurate, reliable stock quotes."

Another reader explained how the bells and whistles that come with the forced upgrade can cause problems of their own. "I own Quicken 2005, which is expiring. I bought 2008, but the reports I created on previous versions were unusable and would have to be remade. My vision is low and I like the largest screen possible. Every time Quicken upgrades they add more tabs, buttons or features which take up more viewing room on the screen. It would suit me if they just charged for the connection for updates. I took 2008 off and reinstalled 2005. I bought my first Quicken in 1995."

What really bothers some readers is the presumptuousness with which Intuit interferes in their communications with their financial institutions. "In sunsetting my 2005 version of Quicken as of April, Intuit is threatening to disable my ability to download 'financial data from your bank, credit union, credit card, brokerage, 401(k) or mutual fund accounts'," wrote another Quicken 2005 user. "They might as well disable the ability to enter numbers! I can see them sunsetting 2005's ability to connect to Quicken and Intuit services, but third party banks? That means they either sold the program with planned obsolescence or they downloaded a patch that is going to disable a working feature. And it wasn't like they warned at the time of purchase that the software would stop downloading on April 30, 2008. Do I hear the sound of people calling their state attorney general?"

Some Quicken 2005 customers did have warning that this day was going to come sooner or later, because they were among the Quicken 2001 customers who three years ago were forced to upgrade in similar fashion. With both Quicken and QuickBooks crippleware policies, Intuit just keeps getting more aggressive in terms of how many features they shut down and how quickly they force customers to upgrade. Who knows how soon those who buy Quicken 2008 could face the next discontinuation notice?

But the real lesson to be learned here is that "discontinuation" can come from Intuit incompetence and indifference as well as Intuit's intent. Along with the Quicken stock portfolio problems, that point was also brought home by last month's incident where a buggy software update caused QuickBooks for the Mac to erase files. And if I were a Quicken or QuickBooks customers, I'd be pretty concerned about the security and privacy issues raised by Intuit's bugs, not the least of which is the question of just how much of your most important financial information is exposed, and where.

Intuit has always justified its sunset/discontinuation tactics with the absurd claim that it permits the company "to provide reliable high-quality products and services" in the future. But never has it been made more starkly clear that the crippleware policy only encourages Intuit to ignore defects in its software and support, in the belief that customers will be forced to upgrade anyway. Quicken customers who don't learn their lesson this time will therefore likely find that, be it inadvertent or intentional on Intuit's part, the next shutdown of essential features will be coming quicker than ever.

What do you think? Post your comments about this story below.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

How to choose a low-code development platform