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Web Design company threatening with debt collection agency for a project never completed

Discussion in 'BlackHat Lounge' started by tbootz, Jun 4, 2009.

  1. tbootz

    tbootz Regular Member

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    I was just contacted by a web design company which I hired to design a website for me exactly one year ago. The website in question was never finished because the job was done in an incredibly poor and unsatisfactory manner so at the time we paid half of the total sum and cancelled further work. The second half would have been paid upon successful completion and delivery of said site.

    Now exactly one year later I recieve an email from the manager of my project requesting the second half ($800+) for the website. In the email it states "Should you neglect to contact us in regards to the your delinquent account, your account and it?s balance will be forwarded to the credit bureaus and or a 3rd party debt collection agency."

    I still have all of my old emails exchanged between me and the design company in question and I did a little digging around in their terms and conditions to see how I could respond.

    In the original "Scope of Work"document it stated "Total Investment: $1875.00 (50% to start, 50% on final development link)".

    In their TOS I found "Delivery of all orders is based upon the website being completed per the original "Scope of Work" issued by the web development consultant along with a maximum of three full sets of revisions issued by the client. Delivery is considered "delivered" upon receiving of the "release form" which is generated and issued to each client so that they can sign off on their website release. Certain circumstances result in websites being released on the internet prior to receiving a "sign off form" however delivery is still not complete nor is the product considered finalized until the release form is obtained."

    A year ago I did recieve one development link to a still unfinished website for the purpose of previewing the progress (or lack thereof) they had made. The term "final development" link would assume that there is a development link pointing to a final, completed website. I had also never recieved a a "release form" from them which according to their own TOS would mean that the website was never considered complete or delivered.

    A year ago I had quite a horrible experience with this company and so cancelled further work on the website and have never looked at the site ever since. However upon typing in the domain name in question (which is in my posession, however expires in only a week) I found a placeholder saying "The official website of ________ is coming soon. This website is being built by _________". In other words there is no website to speak of and the project was never completed or delivered. In their email today, requesting the remainder of the money it states "Project Status: Completed".

    I'd appreciate some suggestions in what my options now are? Should I contact the design firm and dispute the case directly with them? I do not want to be caught up in a legal battle with them, the debt collection agency on one side and me on the other. However I do NOT intend to pay them one cent for a project they never finished, when I had already paid them the first half (up start) sum last year for which I recieved nothing but an incredibly poor service and experience.

    Right now I'm trying to gather evidence to use to dispute them by. I took a screen capture of the domain/website to prove that it's incomplete and was never launched, but realized that I need to have a date along with the screen shot to be able to prove that it is a current capture. The date and time on my deskptop can be easily changed so a print screen would not count as being worth much.

    How should I take a screen capture of the domain so that I can irrefutably prove the date of when it was taken?

    What other information should I gather or do I need to dispute the case successfully?


    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. john.morrison

    john.morrison BANNED BANNED

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    You are in luck, if you can proof that the website was never launched, and basically the final product was never delivered, they have no question for the money.

    You can use Camtasia or Camstudio (free) to record the screens. I would use a screen capturing software to do the following:

    1) Capture the actual domain name when you visit it in a browser. Make sure you are recording the full screen, so they can't challenge it was a dud.

    2) Go to google.com, type cache:domain.com and record the cached web page as a backup.

    3) Go to archive.org, do the same, and you can try yahoo.com or ask.com as well.

    The Debt Agencies are a pain in the butt, and basically the company will use the company to take you to court, either way if they don't close the case themselves, and still demands your money, i am afraid a legal dispute will be the only way.

    I would also consult someone who has more experience in this kind of issues.

    Above all stay positive, I think you have a strong chances of winning since their TOS is on your side.

    I would also print or capture the TOS, as a backup.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2009
  3. heiny

    heiny Regular Member

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    Which country are you from? Did you sign a contract?

    I only know from debt collection agencies in UK are just going to show up at your house. They don't have the right to enter your property even though they can see you are in your house cooking spaghetti bolognaise. Just simply ignore them and make sure your car isn't parked outside ;) or you have any property outside your house.
     
  4. 4alllifestyles

    4alllifestyles Junior Member

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    I've had this in the past. Ended up being a "slam dunk" easy process.

    Here's what I did:

    1) Paid a friend who is an IT instructor at a local college to take all screenshots and provide an affidavit stating that there is no viewable website, etc.

    2) Printed all email correspondence. Especially the cancellation of services.

    3) Dug up all phone records and matched phone calls to emails and created a timeline. This is easier than you think. And shows references to phone calls in email and the corresponding phone record.

    4) Took them to small claims court (US) and demanded refund of the original deposit. Yes, I beat them to the punch and raised the stakes.

    Seeing as they were on the East Coast US and I'm nowhere near there physically they never showed, I won the case by default. Then when their collection agency called I faxed over the court order that stated not only did I not owe the money, that they owed me they (collection agency) offered to collect for me! (Scum, that's conflict of interest in my book).

    It all ended right there and only cost me $35.00. I then later sold the bad debt (small claims court order) to a collection agency, pocketed a few hundred I never thought I'd see again and deduct the loss from my taxes.

    Depending on your local laws, etc. you could do something similar.
     
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  5. cemdev

    cemdev Newbie

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    Yeah, I've had a similar situation - I'd say 4all is spot on. Keep records of everything. Reply to them now with a very official email or letter stating exactly the facts and that you don't owe them any money, and that in fact you want your deposit back (this is optional, and if you do put this in, word it carefully - not aggressively - you're effectively writing it not for them, but for the small claims court)

    I did exactly what 4all did too and went straight to small claims court. It changes everything and is well worth the small fee and a little bit of time.
     
  6. tbootz

    tbootz Regular Member

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    @4alllifestyles

    Thanks for the detailed and great advice. However the poblem with me doing what you did is that I am located in Canada and they are located in the US. In their TOS they state that "For legal purposes, the venue for any dispute including all law suits, mediation, and legal exchanges, shall be Kane County, Illinois, USA."

    Does that mean I would be unable to pove my angle without actually travelling to the US and filing a suit in a small claims court in Kansas?
     
  7. tbootz

    tbootz Regular Member

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  8. kingtrojan

    kingtrojan Junior Member

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    50 days to complete a wordpress -based website with a shitty template ? hahaha
     
  9. Curt7

    Curt7 Junior Member

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    That's really great. You don't have a thing to worry about. I specialize in debt collector elimination. Since they are operating in the US, they fall under The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

    What this means for you, is that all it takes to get rid of any Collection Agency, or Collection Attorney, is a certified letter from you telling them not to contact you again regarding this matter. Use the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as your reference source in your letter.

    That absolutely kills third party debt collectors. They may try sending it to another collector, but by the third attempt they get the message.

    Just wait until you get a letter from a bill collector. It will likely never happen, anyway. Even if it does, there is absolutely nothing to worry about.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2009
  10. tbootz

    tbootz Regular Member

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    Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. A few youtube video's, admissions to complaint forums/services, etc would probably be quite uncomfortable and it would be perfectly within my rights to tell my story in public display.

    So basically even if they hired a debt collector or contacted the credit bureus they wouldn't be able to effectively do anything? I could just ignore them? Is this because I'm located in Canada vs their US location?


    On their website they say that they serve fortune 500 companies but they rank 5th for one of their own main keywords behind a completely unprofessional and small web design firm and other small sites. The irony is that they also "specialize" in SEO services.
     
  11. Curt7

    Curt7 Junior Member

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    "So basically even if they hired a debt collector or contacted the credit bureus they wouldn't be able to effectively do anything? I could just ignore them?"

    Do not ignore them. I'm not certain about the Canadian laws, but in the US, if you ignore them, they can sue you and collect in the end. In the US you must answer mail that comes from collectors, especially certified mail.

    Here is how that works. You and I could sit down and pick 10,000 people at random. Then, we could send each of them a certified letter, telling them that they owe us $10,000. Most of them would then fire off a letter telling us they don't owe us anything, and they would be right. But, many would just throw it away. After 30 days we could file suit based on our certified letter, and we would likely win. Once we have a judgement, we could collect.

    "Is this because I'm located in Canada vs their US location?"

    Your Canadian location has nothing to do with what I'm telling you about. These guys operate out of the US. That puts them under US law. Anyone in the US could fight them the same way.

    I think Canadian laws are closely aligned with the US, but you are on your own to study them. I'm only knowledgeable about US credit laws.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2009