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AWS Billing Error Overcharges Cloud Customers

The error is 'probably causing minor heart attacks across the really big AWS users tonight,' tweeted Chris Fidao of startup Chipper CI.

An apparent billing snafu by Amazon Web Services left some customers drastically overcharged for their cloud usage.

AWS customers reported their AWS charges had erroneously doubled or tripled in the billing mix-up, which Computer Business Review first reported.

Customers reported the excessive charges in tweets and a thread on Y Combinator’s Hacker News site. “This is affecting Chipper's AWS bill,” Chris Fidao of startup Chipper CI tweeted this weekend. “Probably causing minor heart attacks across the really big AWS users tonight”

“Holy heck, I'm glad I ran across this,” tweeted Jason Cavett in response.

“We just added one small EC2 instance, yet my bill is showing at 3x higher than last month,” tweeted Cavett, chief technology officer for webCemeteries, which computerizes cemeteries’ records and helps them leverage technology. “I couldn't figure it out. Thank you. Will file a support ticket.”

Joe Dixon, founder and CTO of Norwich, England-based Ubisend, tweeted he was glad it wasn’t just his company’s account.

“Pretty much ruined my Friday night when I logged in to check!” tweeted Dixon, whose company builds artificial intelligence-driven sales, service and human resources chatbots.

An AWS customer commenting on the Hacker News thread said his company’s EC2 instances have been running for more than 950 hours in one month.

“I can go back and see my instances run for 744 hours (what I'd expect in a month) in previous months,” the commenter said. “Amazon invented more hours than actually exist in a month for billing purposes. Bezos is a genius! I should have thought of that!”

The number of AWS customers affected remains to be seen. The company did not immediately respond to a CRN inquiry, but users posting on the Hacker News site reported receiving an email from AWS stating:

“We are notifying you that we incorrectly issued an early invoice for your September AWS usage on September 18th. As your card was charged successfully for this invoice, we are currently processing a refund for the unexpected charge. The refund generally takes 3-5 business days to be received by your bank and some banks may require additional processing time. Your full monthly usage will be invoiced through our normal billing process on or around the 3rd of October. We will send another notification when your correct September invoice is available. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this error. There is no action required from you, but if you have any questions, please contact the AWS Customer Service Team by visiting: aws.amazon.com/support, and opening a case by selecting ‘Create Case.’ You can then select ‘Account and Billing Support,’ followed by ‘Billing’ for the service, and ‘Charge Inquiry’ for the category."

Another Hacker News poster empathized with AWS programmers: “Whenever I hear news like this, part of me feels bad for all the programmers working very long hours to fix the problem. You can be sure that a lot of pagers started to go off as soon as the reports of billing issues started to come in.”

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