The day after the second call from the Tax Association, Christchurch was carpeted in snow 10 centimetres deep. Whilst this might not seem like a lot, coming on top of quake damage and the storm being expected to linger for three days, for many people this was abject misery. For me it was crucial time to decide what to do. I had managed to avoid making any further commitments. The storm lasted the full three days and then was followed by prolonged cold that meant on top of snow we now had ice as well. On the first day that it was safe to venture out I went down to the bank and had a chat. They cancelled my credit card and wiped the charge for Nethostassn. I decided to desist getting a new one issued immediately.
Whilst waiting for the snow to clear I spent quite a bit of time looking at forums online dealing with complaints about companies and their poor customer service. I also found a page that dealt with American phone number which were used to dial scam calls. More than once Elite World Systems turned up, as did Nethostassn, the Universal Web Consultancy and Online Hosting Network. All had similar scam histories. All were being threatened with court action.
Time to bail.
In early August I started a Certificate of Business Administration with Vision College. I thought that learning how to use Microsoft Office properly as well as M.Y.O.B. software would be more advantageous than continuing an online business (ad)venture that was looking more and more dodgy by the day. One day whilst at morning tea, sitting down with my class who tended to stick together, my cellphone rang. It was the Tax Association. Not having learnt anything either in terms of manners or the fact that I had bigger problems, they now gave me an ultimatim to either comply with their demand I get a credit card or there would be trouble. They didn’t get time to say what because I hung up and turned my cellphone off.
Whilst at Vision College one day I started putting together a file of all my e-mails and other contact with Vision College. I had an idea of how to bail, but was not sure of my legal grounds. I contacted the New Zealand Commerce Commission. After a couple days investigating my complaint they sent back a thorough explanation of the problems that they could see, and gave me two suggestions:
- Cease business contact with Elite World Systems and the Tax Association immediately and ask for my money back
- Contact the United States Federal Trade Commission and lodge a complaint
I never heard from the U.S.F.T.C. In late August I made my move. I sent an e-mail to the E.W.S. admin and said that I was aborting my business and wanted my money back. The following day (I think a Saturday), whilst talking to my parents about winding my business up, the phone rang. It was E.W.S. and they wanted to know why I was bailing. I was honest with them. The conversation went backwards and forwards for about 10 minutes until the guy on the other end acknowledged my decision, though he thought I was mad. About 20 minutes later the phone went again. Another guy, also from Elite World Systems had apparently been asked to try to change my mind. I told him what I told the first guy, and the conversation ended about 15 minutes later just like the first one had. I was about to go to the supermarket when the phone rang a third time. Another guy, who said he had been listening in on the other two conversations, had decided to have a crack at me. This conversation lasted three minutes and ended abruptly with him hanging up.
For about two weeks there was no contact at all. No e-mails, no work done on my business, which was starting to slide, not yet having made a cent and the visitor counter permanently jammed at just a few dozen visitors. Finally, whilst coming back from lunch one day at Vision College, my cellphone rang. When I saw the number I wasn’t sure whether to turn my phone off or answer. I answered. I asked if they could rang me back in twenty four hours, when I am not in class, which they were happy to do.
When they rang 24 hours later, they opened the conversation by saying that they thought in light of the situation that it was time to end our business relationship. After clarifying that, I told them they were obliged under U.S. and New Zealand law to pay me back since the ultimate objective of me having an online business had not been achieved. They said they would pay back half, but stalled when I said I had not seen a single cent. I told them they owed N.Z$7,600. Eventually we settled on $4,400 after a brief argument. I just wanted out of a dodgy scheme that I had realized was not worth the paper it was conceived on.
My involvement with Elite World Systems wrapped up in early December. Not a cent had been earnt, and I was still $3,200 out of pocket. They had kept their promise to return the rest. The Tax Association tried once more, but hung up as soon as I told them I had contacted the U.S.F.T.C. I never heard from them again.
About 16 months later, I randomly Googled Elite World Systems and then the Tax Association just to see how the complaints boards were getting on. At the top of the hits was an article saying that the Tax Association had been taken to the Supreme Court, for its involvement in a $300 million dollar scam involving unsuspecting individuals from numerous countries. I guess karma had its say.