Elance - Ethical Policies, Fairness and Integrity
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As mentioned earlier, Elance has noble intentions when it comes to ethics, but often falls short of the mark when it comes to implementing and enforcing its policies.
The problems in this area begin with poor education of clients. You can see a good example of this on the client project posting page. While a fair bit of information is provided to help clients write up a new project listing, there are no instructions that tell clients what sorts of projects are not allowed, nor to inform them of the other key policies described above. Yes, these can be found in the Elance terms of service, but we all know that nobody reads those lengthy legal documents.
Elance’s decision not to pre-screen projects is another way the company falls short when it comes to the enforcement of project quality standards. Elance relies on its customers to report project listing violations, which is an unreliable method at best. Some contractors are happy to ignore the rules and just bid on these projects anyway, and sometimes are able to exchange enough information to be invited to do the work privately even if the public job is later delisted. Elance does at least respond quickly to reports these days; for a long time, it was a waste of time to even report illegal projects.
Enforcement of project minimums is another area where Elance is frequently criticized. For many years, it was very common for clients and contractors to simply ignore or work around the rule. Buyers would openly declare that they were only willing to pay smaller amounts of money, or providers would make private offers to do work for less than the minimum. Even though it was not possible to actually place a fixed price bid below $50, this could be avoided by putting in a bid for $50, then putting in place a milestone for a lesser amount.
There were contractors who behaved this way routinely. I can remember finding some contractors who had over a dozen projects each with a total payment amount of under $50. To my annoyance, even after reporting them, they remained active on the site.
Elance promised to fix this problem, but instead, they institutionalized it with their change to hourly rate projects. Previously, the minimum hourly rate was $5, but a ten-hour minimum was also required, yielding the same $50 threshold. Then Elance removed the number of hours requirement, so it was now legally possible to offer to do work for $5. Despite this, the fixed price minimum was left at $50. Now not only is the $50 minimum undercut, but it’s not even a terms of service violation to do it. Contractors openly ask clients to relist fixed rate projects as hourly to get around the $50 minimum.
The poor enforcements of the $50 minimum is a leading cause of frustration among reputable contractors. They feel that Elance’s uneven enforcement of this rule gives unscrupulous providers an advantage, and contributes to an undercutting of the site’s project quality standards.
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