Selling Office 365 Open? Avoid Open Product Key Activation on the wrong tenant by reading this post!


Woody Walton

I, like many on the TS2 team, spend much of my time supporting our distribution partners.  I am often pulled into the loop when there is a process problem or satisfaction issue that relates to partners.   The past few months I have seen a significant increase in escalations resulting from partners inadvertently redeeming (activating) Product Key for Office 365 Open customer purchases against their own tenant.  That is to say partners redeem the key while they are logged into their own internal use rights (IUR) Office 365 tenant unknowingly.

Office 365 Open sold through distribution is growing rapidly and I am sure this accounts for the general increase in escalations, but I still want to share how you can be sure not to fall into this trap.  It is an easy mistake to make, and once done causes headaches for all involved.  You will spend time on the phone with support and your customer deployment will be delayed.  no fun!

There are two related issues with the product key redemption process to be aware of:

1.) The Product Key activation site ( was designed for customers, not with partners in mind.

2.) There is no warning or confirmation dialogue telling you explicitly which Office 365 tenant (subscription) you are applying keys to until it too late.

After receiving the product key from the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC), you are directed to to redeem the key against the tenant.

When I say this site was made with customers in mind, I mean the site assumes anyone using it must be the customer.  This means that if you, the partner, go to the site while on your own PC, it is very likely you have your own Office 365 credentials cashed and that any redemption attempt will redeem keys against your own tenant and not the customer’s.

In the below screenshot I have navigated to the site while I have my credentials cached for my own subscription (where I perform delegated admin for my customers):


If I go to in an in private browsing session the landing page appears no differently:


Returning to my browser where I have cached credentials, let’s now progress through the initial stages of key redemption.  I’ll check the box an click the start button.  notice I am NOT selecting that I am an existing customer on the right.  Below is the next screen.  A few subtle things stand out. Can you tell this is my existing tenant and not a new one?

There are two poor indications above that give us clues that we are logged into an existing tenant.

The first one is that the text reads “add more user licenses”

This is the best indication you have done something wrong .

The Second is the logged in user info at the top right


This may not be good indicator as “administrator” may not be too telling if that account name is used routinely.  It doesn’t stand out as yours versus theirs.

Lets now look at the correct screen (no cached credentials):

Screenshot (5)

In the image above there is no indication of a user logged in in the upper right corner and the text reads “enter product key” rather than “add more licenses”.   This seems a glaring difference when they are compared side by side, but I di not notice this until after several times through the screens.  If you are in a hurry you could easily miss it.

Hopefully, reading this post is all you will need to make sure you follow the steps correctly, but to be on the safe side please always use an in-private browser session when adding license keys; you will be glad you did!






Comments (2)

  1. Rob Yoder says:

    I have started using InPrivate browser mode when logging in as a client to help prevent this type of issue.

  2. Steve Chen says:

    Wish I had read your post before I’ve activated the licenses on the wrong tenant… Contacted Microsoft…they are about to send me an form to fill out some details..sounds like a very painful process.

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