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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Montgomery, AL
    Posts
    176

    Legal vs Ethical ...

    I operate a small computer business which includes computer repair, network support, web design, hosting, etc. Back in February another computer company called on me to do a website for one of his customers. He charges this customer $300 per month in "maintenance contract" which is a verbal agreement and nothing is in writing.

    I worked with the customer to develop their website and while on-site one day was asked to do something to fix one of their computers. They were pleased with my work and I didn't charge them because it was a 5 minute deal that anyone could do. Well, the customer wrote the other company a letter telling them that their services were no longer needed and they were using me for all of their computer services and web design & hosting. The owner of the other company called and threatened me telling me that I was not to touch their computers, that he didn't lose customers in this town and I was to do web design only.

    Since that time, the customer has followed through and dropped him entirely and it got really nasty for a while and I am stuck in the middle. I did not in anyway solicite the customer to do business with me and feel that it is the customer's decision who to do business with. On one hand, I am saving the customer $300 per month because I bill only for work completed and not a monthly contract. On the other hand, the other company is now calling other people and telling them that I steal customers and is basically slandering my business.

    What is the best thing to do in this situation? I was told by my customer that I should sue the other company for slander but I am at the point where I just want to put this in the past, keep the customer happy and move on.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    NSW, Australia
    Posts
    136
    I think your customers suggestion of legal action is spot on, or at first, send the rival company a letter outlining your intentions if they persue their current actions. I've had this happen to me before (the large local computer store here has a reputation for being overpriced and lacking in service and knowledge, so i get quite a few of their customers - but i do not intentionally go out finding them, they find me), so i know where your comming from.

    Generally a "Friendly" letter should scare them off, and if not, get a good attorney.
    Rob G.
    ShopManager - Sales & Repair Business Management Software

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Chatsworth, CA
    Posts
    105

    hmmm!

    Well, I have a little knowledge on this subject. While working as an engineer, I happened to go to law school and I happened to become a lawyer whoops...

    Anyway, just my opinion on the subject. Based upon the facts you articulated, you could indeed sue for slander per se which is defamation, not in writing, about your business dealings. You do not need to prove special damages since he is referring to your work.

    However, he could sue you for Tortious Inerference with Contractual Relations, especially since you worked for him at the time you took his contract. Although you say that you did not solicit this guy, it does appear that you took him on as a customer. This would not have been possible had you not interfered with a known contractual relationship that this customer had with your employer. In other words, had it not been for your employer sending you to this guy, he would not be your customer, and had it not been for your actions, he would still be your employers customer.

    I know there are two sides to every story, however, I am sure that if you sue, you will probably be counter sued. It's a lot easier to prove interference with a contract, than defamation!! Remember, truth is a defense to defamation.

    Anyway, that's my take on it.
    Norm
    www.iHostKing.com/
    Internet Hosting & Design

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Posts
    1,210

    Re: hmmm!

    Originally posted by iHostKing
    Although you say that you did not solicit this guy, it does appear that you took him on as a customer. This would not have been possible had you not interfered with a known contractual relationship that this customer had with your employer. In other words, had it not been for your employer sending you to this guy, he would not be your customer, and had it not been for your actions, he would still be your employers customer.
    In order to prove tortious interference, wouldn't intent have to first be established?

    -B

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Chatsworth, CA
    Posts
    105

    Yes

    Intent is a key factor in this tort. Obviously, if you know what joe blow is a customer of your employer, and you know that joe blow has a contractual relationship with your employer, if you then turn around and offer services to joe blow for a fee aside from your employer, that would show intent to interfere period!!

    You are basically in a fiduciary relationship with your employer and are acting as his agent.

    The only way around this would be to get your employers permission. I see these kinds of lawsuits all the time. A works for B, B steals A's clients list and proceeds to take A's customers, B gets nailed!!

    I know this kind of stuff happens all the time, and the vast majority of the time the tortfeasor gets away with it, but you never know!!
    Norm
    www.iHostKing.com/
    Internet Hosting & Design

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2000
    Location
    Alberta, Canada
    Posts
    3,109
    "I worked with the customer to develop their website and while on-site one day was asked to do something to fix one of their computers. They were pleased with my work and I didn't charge them because it was a 5 minute deal that anyone could do."

    I would say you crossed the line and made a life-long enemy.

    If you knew that your Client did computer maintainence work on their Servers, and you were hired for Web design only, you should have known it would be a conflict of interest to also do computer maintainence work on "their" Customer's computer(s). Although you did not charge for "your" maintainence work, you will now have to pay the price for the perceived loss of income your (ex?)Client.

    For you to instigate any Litigation would be a lose-lose-lose proposition -- probably costing you a lot of money as well. Best to chalk the situation up to a "learning experience" and try to down-scale the negative aspects in anyway agreeable to you and those concerned, without anyone going to court.
    Last edited by Website Rob; 04-30-2005 at 04:23 AM.
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  7. #7
    bobcares is offline [email protected]
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Location
    India, US, Germany
    Posts
    1,598
    I would say - for a moment be that customer who contacted you for doing the web development work. They did it in good faith assuming that you would work as a team with them, even if the client says he needs your services it does not make any sense. It is because of you, that this fellow who contacted you and used your services is loosing his work.

    It takes two hands to clap... and you were part of it too... I would not blame the end user only.

    His actions after that is not good but it is more out of anger.

    I do feel that you must just talk to this fellow who hand contacted you in the first place and set things right. Tell the customer that you cannot take his works directly. And form a partnership with the other guy. It is better to make friends than enemies. This way, you'll be happier when you die...

    Just my thoughts... :-)

    Amar
    A student once asked his teacher, "Master, what is enlightenment?"
    The master replied, "When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep. When you need care, come to bobcares...."

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