That reasoning actually paid off.
I’ve got a story for you (how unusual, I know, me? a story?), and it’s inspired a legal webinar series with Brisbane lawyer Katie Richards, of Virtual Legal, who is making waves in the legal world of small business. If you’re keen to get the low down on what YOU need to know as a small business owner, join us for the quick tips and the webinar below. In the lesson, there are also summary notes which list of all the recommendations Katie makes about your Terms and Conditions and your Privacy Policies, and what you need to remember to include.
If you’d like to find out more about what lead me to share her knowledge with all of you, read on. There are 3 distinct lessons I learnt from this experience – and I’m hoping they can help YOU avoid any unnecessary, avoidable drama!
So it was just another ordinary day in the office…
I had a lovely potential client call me and talk for over half an hour about how fabulous my course sounded, how fabulous my mission and vision was, and essentially pumped me for every bit of ‘free’ information she could possibly get out of me. In good faith, and because the primary reason I do what I do is to help people, I obliged.
A week later she bought my course.
A week after that, she complained of a number of things not working (which we researched on various machines, browsers, locations and ISPs and found to be working perfectly), and my team worked around the clock to give her new log in details, send personalised video instructions for logging in and accessing content (which had been accessed by loads of other clients without any issues, and clearly wasn’t rocket science but in an effort to be super helpful we obliged).
When the complaints continued (which we couldn’t verify on any machine, browser or operating system), I spent my Saturday night trying to help troubleshoot the hardware, suggesting that she clear caches and update browsers, restart modems, and even after all that, she told us she had a ‘three strike rule’ and demanded a refund.
When I pointed her to the Terms and Conditions that she bought the course under (once the content has been accessed, there’s a no refund policy unless it is a breach of Australian Consumer Law), she CCed her lawyer in and proceeded to ask for a chargeback through PayPal.
Bottom line, she has accessed the content, which is in perfect working order and has glowing testimonials galore, and now she wants her money back. Not because it’s bad content, not what was promised, or not working, just because.
Bit like reading the back cover of a book, buying it from a bookstore, having a skim read, then taking it back, and saying ‘Yeh, no reason really, just want my money back. A few of the pages may have been a bit stiff when I first opened it. Not good enough.’
The real implication of this though, is that I was reported as providing a fraudulent service, and the fees she paid, wereheld pending investigation. I provided extensive evidence to PayPal including evidence that she had accessed the content, and emails where she admitted doing so, even though the reason for the fraudulent claims was that she ‘could not access the course’.
The reason I’m telling you this story is not to have a whinge, sully anyone’s name, or cry POOR ME! I run a small business online, and being open to these kinds of incidents is simply part of the landscape. What PayPal eventually decided, would have to be the final answer as we all know that a sole operator fighting a giant like PayPal over what is right and wrong when it comes to a $595 course, would be completely futile.
What intrigued me though, is whether the row my ducks were in, was straight enough. I have solid Terms and Conditions, and a solid product. Would that be enough though?
Aaaaaand we got an answer from PayPal. BOO-YEH! Justice prevailed.
So there’s a good reason I’m sharing this story.
If I can help others avoid what I had to go through (not knowing whether what I had was good enough, not knowing whether the system would fail me) by writing this post, then my job is done.
Here are the three lessons I’ve learnt from this:
1) Have solid Terms and Conditions written up by a lawyer who understands online trading and small business. I wasted $6000 with my first lawyer who was recommended by an accountant who worked out of the same building. Trust a lawyer who KNOWS the business you’re in, inside out. My second set are brilliant – and cost a fraction of that, thanks to a lawyer who knows small business inside out, because she’s running one herself.
2) Keep all evidence of discussions, emails and transactions. You may be called on to provide them. If a client starts to make ripples, be prepared for a tidal wave – take screen shots of all user activity and related correspondence, as soon as you get an inkling there may be an issue.
3) Have a clear picture in your mind of how YOU would deal with a situation like this – is it easier to for-go the drama, and just refund straight away? Is it worth the hours of back and forth emails, chargebacks through PayPal, dealing with the bad ju-ju that inevitably comes along with a client like this? Know where you stand, and be prepared to take that stand when the time comes.
Now for those of you who answered ‘just give them a refund’ to the third ‘lesson’, I have a question for you.
When I approached a number of business forums and asked what to do in this situation (refund? partial refund? or stand your ground and use your T&Cs?) I was mostly recommended to give her a refund and not waste anymore time on her, or her baseless claims; that the time it would take me to ‘fight’ for justice, would far outweigh the money I’d be refunding her, so to take the moral high ground, get her out of my ‘space’ and give her the money back.
Is that your take on it too?
Are we, as small business owners, creating a massive problem for ourselves by simply caving in?
Fancy hearing a lawyer’s take on this, and finding out the bare minimum you need to have in your Terms and Conditions?
The #clientnamewithheldforthesakeofintegrity affair has resulted in me approaching my lawyer, to do a series of public webinars on legal issues that affect those who are in the world of educating and training in the small business world, including things like Privacy Policies, Professional Indemnity Insurance, Terms and Conditions, and Joint Venture agreements.
Introducing, the phenomenal Katie Richards, of Virtual Legal. Wait till you meet her. She’s one of those women who operates from a place of true service, and is an absolute mine field of information, inspiration and integrity.
Here are the questions we answer in the first webinar:
- Terms and Conditions
- what should be included for online products and services?
- is there a one size fits all model?
- do the terms and conditions have to be on the page where they buy? should they have to tick a box before buying to say they’ve read them?
- what happens when a client purchases a service then doesn’t want to use it?
- can we charge admin fee if service hasn’t been provided
- International clientswhat law do we operate under? Theirs or ours?
- can they sue us from abroad?
The second webinar covers:
- Joint Ventures and Partnership Agreements
- what do I need to know about working with other professionals when I’m creating content or communities?
- do I need a legal document if we’re creating something together?
- what do I need to make sure is clear with my Joint Venture Partner before we start working together?
Ready to find out the low down on all the points above?
We’ve prepared a Legal Webinar Series that covers all the questions above. Two interviews, and summary notes that cover everything we discuss during the interviews, which were specifically created to address the problems that my clients have had. Together, we decided we could save more hard working small business owners from falling into the same traps we have!
The lesson is available here.
Click on the above link to be taken directly to the Lesson. If you’re already a member of the Small Business Wisdom course, make sure you’re logged in! If you’re not, you’ll be redirected to the page where you can become a member.