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Just days after the official release of Microsoft Corp.’s Money 2005, some customers who placed transactions to purchase copies of the financial management software are alleging they were short changed.

Microsoft support newsgroups on Monday was rife with displays of cognitive dissonance and customer dissatisfaction over what are alleged to be serious quality control issues—primarily concerning online bill paying features.

Microsoft considers Money 2005 to be a significant advancement in the product’s evolution. The company has taken Money back to “essentials” to address three primary tasks: checking account balances, monitoring spending and paying bills.

In addition to simplifying Money, Microsoft has souped up the software’s ability to download clients’ account information from banks, credit card companies and brokerages while reducing the need for manual data entry.

The tighter ties between Money and the MSN service mean that customers can manage portfolios, stay informed and pay bills online. However, this integration paved the way for the sharpest criticisms from the early adopters. Aside from scattered complaints made over Microsoft’s changes to categories, and an apparent inability for some users to match downloaded transaction with transactions in their personal registers; the aggrieved customers reported that the MSN Bill Pay feature will not work after upgrading.

To be more specific, posts to the support newsgroup said that synchronization between the MSN Money Website and Money 2005 is broken by the release, leaving some customers unable to synch with their bank accounts.

Microsoft suggests that customers upgrading from Money 2004 should temporarily turn off the feature to access their information online and contact MSN Bill Pay support—however, they should not reenroll in MSN Bill Pay. This solution did not resonate with some customers.

“Their ‘solution’ to my issued involved, re-installing Money 2004, ending MSN Bill Pay Service in that application, re-installing 2005, and starting a new account with MSN Bill Pay there,” read one complaint.

Some users said they would return to the previous version.

“After struggling for the better part of 2 days with many of the issues I have read about on this board relating to Money 2005, primarily involving MSN Bill Pay, I am ‘throwing in the towel’ and going back to Money 2004. After being bounced around all day from MSN Bill Pay ‘customer service’ to Microsoft Support, back to MSN Bill Pay, over to Check Free, back to Microsoft Support, I have just about had enough,” wrote another customer.

Yet other customers demanded the software’s “Money-Back Guarantee”, or claimed to have downgraded to previous versions of the software. A group of customers have even taken it upon themselves to establish an “unofficial” bug-list.

To keep perspective, BetaNews readers have pointed out that competitor Intuit has also seen its share of troubles in its Quicken 2005 release. Intuit has retired its .QIF data interchange format in favor of a proprietary format that critics allege “pits customers against partners” by using the installed base of Quicken users as leverage to obtain higher fees from financial institutions. Many of these institutions have refused to adopt the new format; consequently reducing the available options for Intuit customers.

Money 2005 and details on pricing are available from Microsoft retail partners or directly from Microsoft at the Money Web site.

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