My web developer is a shonk. Should I sue?

Dear Aunty B

My partner and I recently launched our website. The problem is that the web development company we engaged (which is a large prominent web development SEO company, positioning itself as the online solution provider to SMEs) did not deliver what they said they would deliver and what I ended up having to pay for.

They told me they would take six to eight weeks to build the website and instead took eight months. They swapped the project manager on my website about five times. I kept asking different project managers where the functionality I asked for was, but my messages were either unreturned or not answered, and with all the swapping and changing continuity of project management became a major issue.

Finally they passed me to the chief operating officer who told me the site would not include all the functionality I asked for as it was too far along the road for this work to now be done, as well as too costly for them.

He then added that if I wasn’t happy I could “take them to court”. This is despite the fact that various people in this company have admitted that looking back they were not equipped to deal with the project and that the company they outsourced it to in India wasn’t up to scratch.

The company also would not give me a discount for work outstanding saying that they had done enough work already and refused to hand over the site unless I paid the total amount they had initially quoted me.

My dilemma is this….. do I take this company to the small claims tribunal (or similar) and try and recoup costs so that I can fix my website, or should I just draw a line under this experience and forget about ever getting a cent off this company and carry the cost of the development work that needs to be done.

(I should add to this that I don’t think this operating officer would give me an option of taking them to court if I was a representative of a large blue chip company!)



Dear A,

I am surprised you have not taken a baseball bat to their office, smashed their computers one by one and told them to take you to court if they were not happy. Not that I am advocating violence towards web developers (today) but really… What an appalling tale. Now my usual advice is to walk away. But I really think in this case you should act.

I asked a very helpful lawyer, Julian Hewitt at to provide some advice. He says the best option really depends on the amount of money at stake. How much did you pay for the web development services relative to the value received/ promised under the engagement contract and how much business have you lost as a result of the delay?

If your total losses amount to a sum under $10,000 then handle the matter yourself by filing a claim at VCAT, which in such instances is a “no cost” jurisdiction. No legal representation will be permitted for either party, and they essentially “tell their side of the story” in layman’s terms. It is still important to be well prepared and have all relevant documents and arguments ready on the day. Contact details for VCAT in your city are as follows:

VCAT – Civil Claims List
Ground floor, 55 King Street
Melbourne Vic 3000.
GPO Box 5408 CC
Melbourne Vic 3001
DX 210576 Melbourne
Telephone: (03) 9628 9830
Facsimile: (03) 9628 9988
Vic Toll Free: 1800 133 055.


For other administrative tribunals see, for example, the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) in Western Australia, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT) in NSW. The Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Queensland is being established, and if readers have other contacts please send them in.


Also our columnist Craig Reardon, who wrote today’s story “Why You Should Sack Your Web Designer”, says there is a very affordable service offered by the Office of the Small Business Commissioner.


I hope that helps.


Your Aunty B

Aunty B - Your problems answered by SmartCompany's business bitch

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