About 1 year ago, in May, I received a telephone call out of the blue, from a company stating that they had obtained my details from the Buy With Confidence website. I am a member of Buy With Confidence. As a result of the caller stating that they had obtained my details from that organisation, I did not bother to check up on them, as I assumed that they must have had some sort of arrangement with the local Trading Standards Service, who operate the Buy With Confidence scheme in various parts of the country.
The caller stated that they would offer me a free website, as I was a member of Buy With Confidence, as they were seeking to help small businesses who did not have a website to obtain 1 and thereby have a web presence. I agreed, whereupon they informed me that there would, of course, be a charge for the hosting, etc., of £100.00 plus V. A. T. As I am not V. A. T. registered, this means that the site would actually cost me £120.00.
I decided in favour of a site, as I thought that it would be a good idea to see if having a site made any difference to my business; as 99.9% of my business comes from personal recommendation, I thought that was unlikely, but I decided to give it a go.
After a couple of months of discussion and to and fro-ing with regard to the actual design details, the site was up and running by about mid-July. Although I had received only received 1 enquiry from the site, and that did not turn into business, this was about what I had expected. In fact the enquiry originated from the Buy With Confidence website in the 1st place, so effectively there was no business emanating from my site.
As this was what I was expecting, I decided to put it all down to experience, and to say that I had at least given having a website a go, although it was not really suitable for the way that I run my business.
From July onwards, about every 2 months, I received a “hard sell” type of telephone call from the same people, asking me if I wanted to upgrade, buy add-ons, etc., all of which I declined. I had previously informed the company concerned that I was really only trying out the idea of having a website, and that the basic 1 would be good enough for a trial for the 1st year.
In January, I received a telephone call from the company, stating that although I had paid by cheque for my website, this would not be acceptable for the next year’s hosting fee. I explained that as I was only really trying out the idea, there was a distinct possibility that I would not want the website for the following year anyway. I had previously been told that I would have to pay the equivalent of 1 year’s hosting fee for the privilege of leaving the arrangement.
After my having told them this, I was repeatedly asked for my credit card details. When I asked why, I was told that the company had to have them because the method that I had used to pay for my website would not be available as an option in the future.
I still could not see why they needed this information, but they kept on, and eventually, reluctantly, and indeed, untypically, I finally released my card details. I repeated my demand as to why they needed my details there and then, and I was told that they wanted to take the next year’s hosting fee off me. As the renewal date was not until May, 2014, and the website had been up and running for only 6 months, I protested that it was a bit early to be taking a renewal fee, 6 months early, in fact!
The reply was, well we have already taken the fee now (within less than 1 minute!). I objected to this and stated that I was not happy with this situation, and that I would consider taking further action. I was then offered my website, copyright-free for the same amount that I had paid them.
As this was a possible course of action that I had intended when I took up the offer of the website, I decided that this would at least cut my losses. I am pleased to say that my site was delivered within a couple of hours; maybe they could not wait to get rid of me!
Needless to say it was in the form of a zipped file, which I could not open with any programme on my computer, nor, indeed, anything that I could download off the internet. So, I now have a website that is all mine, it has only cost me £264.00 (the 2nd year’s hosting fee had gone up), which I am unable to open, has produced no business, and I cannot even upload to my present site (this blog), without paying yet another fee. At least my business is not dependent on a site!
If there is anybody reading this, be warned, this company is not a web design company, it is a sales company, who use existing templates and substitute your details into the appropriate slots. Not much design there!
Finally, I am still concerned that they have my credit card details, although they have promised to destroy them, and I have been in touch with my local Trading Standards Service, who have written to them twice in at least a month, and have received no reply.
When I looked up this company’s own website, and the associated forums, it appears that they have a complete department solely to deal with correspondence from Trading Standards! Enough said, I think!!
I suppose that I should consider that I have got away lightly, and I do, but I worry what might have happened had I taken up some of their upgrades, such as search engine optimisation, which according to the forums, does not work at all!
If anybody reading this has had a similar experience, I would be interested to hear, but I would warn them that I do not spend all day, every day, on the net, so it may be a while before I see any response, and consequently get back to you, if necessary.
Owing to an unprecedented response (nothing at all), I have decided to go public with the name of the company concerned. This is Webworks Internet. I do not intend to publish the names of any individuals that I have dealt with, as I am sure that they were simply following orders, and, to judge from other websites, there are a large number of disaffected ex-employees of this company about, to provide evidence of what has gone on within their company.
It may well now be, that with the naming of the company concerned, and with the additional tags that I have put on this piece, that there may be people about, reading this who would not have responded before as they would not have known which company I was writing about.
I also have a possible battle looming with Lloyds Bank, but that will have to form the basis of another item!