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What to do about current web designer

Good evening, I have told a friend that I would help them with this situation. She has given a web designer a deposit for a shopping cart and more for her website. They signed a contract that stated the project would be done in 8 weeks. This was 4 months ago. Since that time the designer has not done much for the project besides put the cart on the server. It does not even work. My friend says she was told it would cost $450 for the cart. Now the designer will not return email or phone calls. In order for her to go forward with finding someone new to do this for her she would like to get her money back and her license for the cart she bought that the designer has. Is there a good way of doing this? I would think that going through the legal process would cost her more than what she has already given this person. I don't know much about this process so I would appreciate any tidbits of advice I could give her. Thank you in advance for any thoughtful replies and advise.

I hope I have put this in the right category. Not for sure where this should go.

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Hi Rob,

There is really no expert answer here but I can tell you a couple of approaches I would consider

1) Small Claims Court - no costs involved just some leg work and effort.  I live in NJ and they, like most states have information about filing a small claims case for a breached oral or written contract.  NJ's information can be found here. http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/civil/civ-02.htm

2) if the depost was made via credit card, call the credit card company and explain tha the merchant is not performing.  Often times the credit card company will investigate this as it is essentially credit card fraud.  You will get your money back while the investigation occurs.

3)  Pay a lawyer to write a deman letter - often times a small timer will be intimidated by a certified letter from a laywer demanding that they contact you and refund your money.  This should cost you about $100 if you draft the details for the lawyer.

3) You didnt say how much the depost was so I dont know what your friend is out but he/she can always just chalk it up to experience and move on.    If engaging another designer it is best to pay with a credit card and  have a written contract then you can let the credit card go to bat for you.  They dont take kindly to their merchants charging people and not delivering.  Hope this helps.  Good Luck
Kshitij AhujaTechnology Developer

Points highlighted by the expert above are good, however you are right in that it is very likely to incur more cost to you. I will not suggest you a legal course as that might take much of your precious time which you really cannot buy with money. So why waste it? In the points above, i would suggest that the point #2 is good course and easy to comparatively achieve and has high probability of ending up in your favor.

If the license is for one year, i think it wont be long enough that it will be rendered useless for the developer. Even then, you can complain to the license issuer about this and they might well give you a new license or may be put a check on where else the license is being used and prevent the developer from using it. Internet is so vast that often it is difficult to control things like this.

As for your development, i can suggest a way. There is Content Mgmt. System (CMS) called Joomla (www.joomla.org). It is an open source software and free to use. There is further an extension for Joomla and is called VirtuaMart which is essentially a shopping cart component. You can use that and install it yourself and have a shopping cart ready in a matter of few minutes. That would be better to follow.

And yes, do take care when you deal online next time.

Jason ThompsonSenior UX Designer
Hi Rob,

This is tricky without seeing the contract that both parties agreed to, but I think the deposit is gone.  

The client could try small claims court, but the designer will likely argue that they put in a good amount of work into the project and handed over X% of a finished product, so they're entitled to the deposit.  The designer could even come at the client for more money if they can document that the amount of work put in, or can show that the client was at least partly at fault for the delay.

As for the cart license, are we talking about downloaded software, or a hosted service?  If the client purchased the service herself, it should just be a matter of contacting the hosting company to get the passwords.  If it's a software download and she's the original purchaser, she also might be able to contact the software company to get the license key or another copy.  

However, if the designer purchased the software or service with his/her own funds, ownership likely belongs to the designer unless the contract specifically says that the deposit will be used to purchase the cart software.

I'm not a legal professional, so you might do more research at Nolo.com or other online legal sources.  My expertise comes from seven years as an independent web designer, and watching a hundred or so episodes of Judge Judy.  ;-)  

Hope this helps!

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