vWorker - Dispute Resolution and Arbitration
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Arbitration (Fixed Rate Projects)
vWorker’s full arbitration process applies only to fixed rate projects. Its purpose is to adjudicate disputes to determine whether escrowed funds should be released to a contractor or returned to the client. Arbitration is conducted by vWorker employees who follow a strict set of rules that govern every step of the process.
In a high level sense, arbitration is best viewed as the way that vWorker implements its payment guarantees to clients and contractors. The company tells clients that they only pay if workers “fully complete and deliver the contracted work by the deadline, and it will be up to industry-expected standards”. It also tells contractors that they will be paid if they “fully complete the contracted work by the deadline, and it is up to industry-expected standards”. Thus, arbitration is aimed at determining whether the contractor did indeed do what is required by the guarantee. In the case of software projects, this actually includes testing the software delivered by the contractor to see if it meets the needs of the project that the two parties agreed upon.
vWorker’s arbitration process is a model of professionalism. Some sites have arbitration services but charge extra for them; vWorker does not. Most sites also provide few, if any, details about how the arbitration process works; in contrast, vWorker spells out everything in its terms of service. There are so many details, in fact, that I couldn’t hope to describe them in detail in this Guide. But just to give you an idea, all of the following potential issues are covered:
vWorker also has a wise policy of prohibiting the losing party in an arbitration from leaving feedback.
I’ve actually had the experience of using vWorker’s arbitration process. To make a long story short, I was hired to manipulate and format some data for a client who was then going to import it into a web store database. After I had delivered the data to him in the format he requested, the client had problems integrating the data into his own system. He had never provided me any information about how that system worked, yet decided that it was my responsibility to figure out how his software functioned, and do any and all reworking of the data necessary to make his website work, without additional payment. This struck me as completely unreasonable, and after he refused to budge (and then became abusive) we ended up in arbitration.
I went into the process with some trepidation, and very low expectations. And let me tell you, I was shocked at the level of professionalism I experienced in dealing with the arbitrator who handled my case. Everything was done strictly “by the book”, and there were clear rules and guidelines to cover everything. The client was required to provide a list of specific flaws related to the project; the arbitrator went through these and then asked me to provide responses and specific deliverables to rebut the client’s claims. The client kept responding to requests from the arbitrator for objective information by instead writing sermons about how bad I was as a contractor, and repeating his contention that I was responsible for making his website work. The arbitrator remained completely objective and in the end ruled in my favor simply because the client refused to provide the information that the arbitrator requested, and kept insisting on a standard not present in the contract.
I won’t say that this was a pleasant experience: it certainly was not. In fact, it turned me off from freelancing for several months. But it was much less unpleasant than it likely would have been on any other site. In fact, if this had happened while working on any of vWorker’s competitors, I would have likely lost all the money ($200), spending extra hours doing what the client unreasonably demanded, or at best, gotten back my money only after spending half of it on a third party arbitrator.
I do have a caveat for contractors, though: pay attention to those boilerplate legal terms that appear in project listings. I refer here to the ones that are automatically filled out for the client based on the work category they select for the project. I think these show up so often in project listings that contractors tend to gloss over them, but they are important. You are agreeing to meet these terms, and if there’s any sort of an issue that sends the project to arbitration, you’ll be judged based in part on how well you adhered to them.
My other piece of advice would be to keep all communications on-site, because it is the messages on vWorker itself that are the primary way that the arbitrator will judge what you promised the client. If you say in a message on vWorker that you’re willing to write three articles for a particular sum, but then in a phone conversation you and the client agree that you’ll only do two, that’s fine—but if the project goes to arbitration then the first agreement is all the arbitrator will see, and if you did only two articles, you’ll probably lose.
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Last Site Update: May 18, 2011
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