Ex-Client Demanding Domain Names
I do plan to seek advice from a solicitor on this issue but thought it may be worth posting in here to see if anyone has experienced anything similar.
I had a client who I did some SEO and web development for. We parted company at the end of last year.
Completely on my own accord and without her instruction I bought a couple of domains with my own money to use as news syndication sites. The intention was to syndicate some of the press releases and articles that were being sent out to give them a little boost.
A couple months go by and this client decides that I would be a great fit for a business partner and decides to offer me 20% shareholding in the business. Of course the certificate was never produced......But prior to realising that this woman was stringing me along I bought a couple more domains, this time with the knowledge that I was going to be a shareholder in the business.
A couple more months go by and no certificate was offered. I did not want to ask about it as I was afraid of what the answer would be. Tension mounted and heated discussions were had. I asked about the shares and was told she was no longer willing to give them to me. We discussed the issue and I declared that I would rather not have them and just want to focus on getting the job done and earn a living. We agreed that she would instead raise my monthly fee up if I did more work and got better results (results that I never got to see). So of course now with the promise of a pay rise I work my butt off..At one point I calculate that I was earning as low as £4 per hour.
At the end of each month the client would make certain she told me how poor she is and that her business (start up) was struggling. But I suspected things where going well because of the visits in the analytics, but her money is made from the sales calls and she would say how none of the leads were converting. Anyway month after month she would declare this and all the while I notice on facebook a brand new BMW, private jets, boating trips the list of endless...Did not appear to be struggling anyway....
During this time it was the recession. This was my only client and my first client. I previously worked full time at a web agency for 3 years but was poached away by this person with the promise of much needed money. I was a little naive in allowing myself to be led down the path so to speak.
To cut a long story short. We have since parted company but now I have received an email from her threatening to take me to court if I do not transfer the domains over.
Has anyone faced a similar situation to this?
Part of me is saying just hand them over and be done with it and move on. But the other half of me is saying that I should stand up for myself and demand satisfactory compensation or simply tell her to get lost.
What would you do in this situation?
Thanks if you made it to the end of this.
|Part of me is saying just hand them over and be done with it and move on. But the other half of me is saying that I should stand up for myself and demand satisfactory compensation or simply tell her to get lost. |
Get to a solicitor and stand up to her, she's obviously been using you, defend your position and also sue her for the past unpaid work you've done and your legal costs.
Since you're in the UK unless the names you have bought are trademarks then I'll have a bet she's totally wasting her time.
By the way, don't believe everything you read on facebook!
Seek a lawyer. Depending on the exact situation, exactly who owns the domain name could go either way I think.
And to give you a flip side, about 9 years ago (young and foolish) I reg'ed a domain on behalf of a client. Then they spent about 6 months running me around building the website and never paid me a dime. This is back when I'd reg the domain for clients prior to actually receiving a check. Things came to a head after I eventually took the site down.
Client called, said they were just sitting down to write me a check but my poor behavior screwed things up. They demanded the domain for me to get paid. I refused.
9 years later, their domain is still registered and owned by me. I'll die old and bitter before I give the domain back to them.
The domain I think is their company name, but it's my name on the registration.
The only contact I've heard since was from a lawyer about a year later. He came sniffing around, I played coy until he disclosed that he was also owed money by the client.
Moral of the story. In God We Trust. All others pay cash.
If you go to the Companies House website, I think you can view the last set of accounts submitted (but I can't remember if they charge for this service - it's several years since I've done this).
I would not hire a lawyer, not yet anyway, simply acknowledge receipt of the email and say nothing more whatsoever - at the very least you'll confuse her and wind her up a little bit. Even if she chooses to hire a lawyer, you are not obliged to do the same or to fight the case, but if she does, you will have the satisfaction of knowing she's paying through the nose, even if you are not the beneficiary.
String it out, wind her up and make her suffer, but without putting yourself to any trouble or expense.
Thanks for the replies. I am not going to give them up without a fight.
I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees! I will fight this for myself and for any of my peers who have been used and abused by business owners.
Thanks for all the support.
Thumbs up to kaled's response. Nice one wheel.
Anyone can threaten to take you to court. It's as easy as typing out this message. However, very few cases actually end up in court. She is trying to frighten you and make you think she has a legal case, when in fact it is highly debatable at best.
So I would do what kaled advises. Acknowledge the threat, but make no comments one way or the other.
In fact a quite likely outcome is that when she realises the weakness of her case, she will instead make an offer to buy the names from you. Then you can agree, adding a premium for the stress she put you under.
This is what I did. Started to work with a buddy a couple months after he built a retail product in his garage. Tells me for 3 years I'm part owner so I stay up til 3 in the morning cranking out site, I was the young, naive internet guy, he changes his mind one day, yadda yadda yadda
He screwed me, but instead of suing, because I didn't have the money, or walking away(because I had a good full-time job at an SEM Agency,otherwise), I decided to put a smiley face on, stick around for the next 5 years while the world continued to use Google to find stuff. He finally after 7 years asks me to come work there full-time as "Direct of Marketing," thinking it was all water under the bridge and forgotten.
Long story short, 8 years and $$,$$$,$$$ from SEM later, he's paid himself enough to retire. He never worked at another company before and doesn't know how to use Excel. I felt 8 years was long enough, so I buy all the domains of the keywords, walk out one day without ever signing an NDA/Non-compete, move across the country and spend a year building out websites that now surround "his" in the SERPs and work with the same suppliers. Now my phone rings 17 times a day from all over the world and we compete for the same customers and I under bid him everytime.
Bought domain names on my own credit card, on my own computer, in my own house, on my own time. Domains are mine.
Fascinating SEO challenge to compete with your own site.
So, I'm not part owner anymore because "we never put it in writing?" Well, I never signed an NDA/Non-Compete.
Cuts both ways, pal. Funny how it worked out...now I'm 100% owner.
Big thanks to all of you who have replied to this thread.
I ended up speaking to a solicitor who specialises in internet law. I explained the circumstances in detail.
The solicitor said to tell her to get lost!
That night I took a call from the ex-client asking me when I would be transferring the domains over! Of course I said that I had spoken to a solicitor and that the domains would not be going anywhere. She then launched into a tirade of abuse calling me all the names under the sun, and even threatened to run me down in the car!
I smile when recalling that phone call.
I can see the headlines now....."Work at Home Father of 3 Gets Flattened Over Extremely Long Tail Domain Name"......
or for newspapers who think I was in the wrong...
"Domain Squatter Squashed"
Anyway I digress.......
I followed up her abusive phone call with an email stating that if I was threatened with violence again I would take the matter up with the police. I have not heard a word from her since.
Thanks for the support as it was the first time I have encountered this type of situation and it helped me to make a stand.
I may even consider the advice from HuskyPup.
"Get to a solicitor and stand up to her, she's obviously been using you, defend your position and also sue her for the past unpaid work you've done and your legal costs."
I was promised a share in this company for which I have a witness for. I have not seen the company accounts, but based on what I do know, this company would be worth between 1 and 3 million.
Congratulations, the bully will get what she deserves!