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A 'Small Claims Court' For the Internet 116

angry tapir writes "It's not unusual for a freelance Web designer or developer to be burnt when a client refuses to pay up, citing one excuse or another. And what can you do about it? If a contract only amounts to a few thousand dollars, litigation to recover your fee can be far too expensive, and an increasingly vituperative exchange of emails is often not enough for client and contractor to come to agreement over who owes whom what. Into this gap steps A start-up founded by Peter-Jan Celis that aims to provide internet-based, legally binding arbitration services — a 'small claims court' for the internet — with a particular eye on settling the conflicts that arise over freelance development and Web design."
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A 'Small Claims Court' For the Internet

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  • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @02:17AM (#40229497)

    ^This. Just cause it's on the big scary "internet" doesn't mean laws don't apply.

    In addition, any freelance web designer who doesn't get partial payment up front and interim payments for hitting specified milestones shouldn't be accepting contracts.

  • Small Claims (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @02:41AM (#40229595) Homepage

    I sued an ex-client in small claims. One of the defendants had a lawyer for a dad who tried to be as much of a weasel as possible. They moved it to civil court threatening to sue me for 10's of thousands. I handled my own side of it and still won without stepping foot in court. Cost maybe $80 all together for filing fees and postage and got every penny I was owed.

    The agreement on who owes who what should be settled before work begins. You're then just going to court to enforce a contract when one side doesn't deliver. For small amounts you're on your own. You'd spend more on lawyers than you're owed and if the client has a lawyer, you just have to deal with it.

    If you're lucky, they come to their senses and you can avoid the courtroom. What would really be helpful is simple legal advice. Even arbitration is a little late to the game. You need to know whether you even have a case, what documents you need to win your case, etc, what arguments you need to make, etc.

    Showing up to arbitration unprepared is no better than showing up to court unprepared.

    The simple solution is to just never leave large sums of money on the table and work with people you trust. I don't like racking up large invoices simply because I'd rather have cash in hand. I can't pay bills with invoices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2012 @04:18AM (#40229925)

    What's the point? If the client agrees that there are issues to be settled, and possibly some payment to be made, negotiation is the way to go. If the client refuses to pay, he is not likely to agree on any kind of arbitration that he can't control. And even if it goes against him, what will force him to pay?

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.