First Found Manchester - Website Search Engine Optimisation
First Found in Manchester
UPDATE to this: First Found made contact after reading my blog and offered to refund my monies and also a compensatory settlement was made. As part of that agreement I agreed to update my blog and the other posts to reflect the outcome. In the interests of clarity it is important for everyone to fully research any and all SEO providers before contracting them. From experience I would not trust any company who claims to put you on page 1 of google or offers SEO, you can do it yourself with a little reading, the only reason I didn't was for time but now I just manage the time and don't pay people to do something they can not guarantee.
First Found Manchester - recently I have had some issues with website search engine optimisation and the company named above, First Found Manchester. On 11th January 2016 I appointed First Found of Manchester to optimise my website for specific keywords that relate to the content and business purpose of the website, wedding photography.
I paid an initial setup fee of £110.50 + VAT followed by three additional months of the same value, totalling £530.40. After this I paid an additional monthly fee of £58.80 (including VAT).
After having several discussions with my Search Engine Optimisation technician I found that I was not improving on rankings at all for any of the keywords that had been agreed. Instead, I found that the enquiries had simply stopped coming in and was having to invest in additional advertising.
At the end of October 2016 I wrote to First Found Manchester and requested a breakdown of the work that was completed on my website along with a breakdown of the number of hours they worked on it. Reasonable request given the amount I was paying for their "Search Engine Optimisation" work, unless this was received no additional payments would be made.
In July 2016 the Search Engine Optimisation technician disabled a Copyright Protection Plugin on my website which left my images and intellectual property available to be stolen and downloaded, this resulted in a loss of sales to my business. Also, a possible breach of contract which is being looked into. One would think a professional organisation would use due diligence when working on someones website where it contains intellectual property of value!
First Found Manchester made several calls to me in order to chase payment but absolutely nothing with regards to my letter of concern back in October 2016. They self confessed on another website forum of 23 calls in total! This isn't reasonable to any standards and certainly not of the ethic of a professional company as they suggest they are.
Whilst I was not prepared to discuss the matter with them until they had addressed my concerns I kept receiving phone calls to both my home telephone and mobile telephone, some days it was two a day!
On 17th January 2017 I received a "Final Demand" from First Found Manchester, only one letter chasing payment had been received prior to this. They were now chasing payment for November and December 16 which equated to £176.40. They state in the letter that "we are continuing to carry out work on your site". This is a remarkable comment to make considering that when I ceased payment for November 16 I immediately changed all passwords to my website. This is a blatant lie on behalf of First Found Manchester in their letter dated 17th January 2017. This letter added that if payment was not received in five working days further action will commence against me, though it took them until the 27th January 17 to actually do anything.
I chose to ignore First Found Manchester as they had ignored my requests previously for the breakdown and account of what had actually been done on my website as the only evidence of any work was some copy content being added and internal website links tidied. I would estimate this to be in the region of around 8 hours work, still reasonable to request a breakdown of the work I was paying for.
On 27th January 2017 I received a letter from First Found with the heading "FORMAL NOTIFICATION OF COUNTY COURT SUMMONS". As anyone would expect, this is very concerning but what is more concerning here is what follows and what First Found did in order to attempt to obtain payment, some may say with dishonesty. This was also approved by the Managing Director of First Found Manchester, Chris Bellamy - that is what is typed on the form, either he knew about this conduct and approved it or he was simply not aware of what his staff are doing and attaching his name to. An employer is vicariously liable for the actions of their staff!
Within the letter I received was the following;
"it is with regret that as a result of non-payment, your account has now been passed to our legal department with instruction for them to issue a County Court Summons against you to recover the outstanding fees". - well, this is pretty standard for any company to want to be paid but...... it is the manner in which a professional organisation acts upon their rights, as such, First Found Manchester did the following;
Attached a County Court Claim Form, self completed which is perfectly normal, however, what is not normal, ethical or professional is the fact that First Found Manchester completed the form with incorrect figures on and also added Solicitors costs when in fact there had been no such solicitor involvement at all!! Anyone can download, complete and print the N1 County Court Claim Form from here. This is also an offence under s40 of the Administration of Justice Act 1970 which they may fall foul to as I research further, perhaps they considered this before they sent the document though! Or perhaps not.
This is what First Found in Manchester put on the document in relation to fees and costs which are legally capped by the Her Majesty's Court and Tribunal Service;
Amount Claimed: £241.27 - this part is incorrect due to the fact that they added £45.00 for admin charges for letters sent out at £15.00 per time, however, only two letters were actually received so should have been £226.27. Had First Found entered the latter amount it would have been correct, which included some interest added as a covenant of the agreement.
Court Fee: £170.00 - this is absolutely astonishing as the Court Fees are capped as mentioned above, as such, any claim that is below £300.00 in value then the Court Fees are broken down as follows; £35.00 if it is a "Paper Form" which is what they sent or £25.00 if a claim is made online!! £170.00 they added, mmm, I guess that figure is a nice round figure. https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/court-fees
Solicitors Fees: £500.00!!!!!!! If a claim amount is below £500.00 then the maximum amount that can be claimed is £50.00, this is covered by Civil Procedure Rules, specifically 45.2. So, this is yet another misleading and quite frankly deceptive amount to be placed on an official court document, more grounds for a breach of s40 Administration of Justice Act 1970.
This brought the total amount up to £911.27 according to First Found Manchester. However, there was no such claim actually made with Manchester County Court at any time (I called them twice during the week), seems somewhat strange or was it intended to scare! Scare someone who they may have believed was not aware of their rights and may panic and decide to pay up....!
I write this blog now, some three weeks after the event as I wanted to make sure that the blog is factual and does not have any emotion attached to it. It is written to highlight how some companies fail to exercise any customer service or ethical approach to their customers. You may say that this is just a way of getting back at them, well, there may well be some truth in that but it is more about making sure that other companies are aware of who they are looking to invest their hard earned cash with. In my experience I would not recommend First Found in any way.
I want to bring this to a close with the following from First Found in Manchester after my letter in response to their threat that was sent to them on 28th January 2017.
First Found Manchester claim "there notes" show that they tried to make contact on multiple occasions, I agree with this, they admitted to 23 times by telephone, somewhat harassing!
"We are extremely reluctant to take further action against clients and look to avoid any proceedings where ever possible. It is disappointing that we were forced to consider taking legal action against you considering the number of attempts we made to resolve this with you". Mmm, they tried calling but failed to acknowledge the letter sent in October 16. To take legal action against someone means one has to follow rules, be able to complete a document correctly in order to get it into court and certainly not attempt to obtain monies for solicitors work when there has been no such work. Very deceptive thing to do, one may think. I like the word "consider", especially as First Found didn't just consider it, they actually completed and sent out a formal County Court Document with incorrect figures on and also naming Chris Bellamy. This is not "considering" something, it is a threat when sent out in the manner in which is was. It is almost within the realms of Blackmail!!!! Another case for a breach of s40 of the Administration of Justice Act 1970.
"It is clear that you do not want to respond to our attempts in order to reach an amicable resolution. I have therefore taken the decision to close the account with immediate effect. We trust that this concludes the matter." - Sadly I am afraid not, I just haven't taken the time to respond, yet.
Signed by their Business Support Manager.
Well, had First Found in Manchester responded to my letter in October within the timescale I requested then we may have reached a solution but they chose to ignore it along with emails I sent to the Search Engine Optimisation technician with concerns.
Since this has taken place I have been in touch with Trading Standard in Lancashire and have also discovered that First Found are also known for two similar complaints at Manchester Trading Standards. I've yet to find out with others in the North West.
Now, you may say, why did I farm this work out in the first place??? Well, it was simply due to time constraints. This is a note to every company, especially photographers that consider using any Search Engine Optimisation Company, make sure you are well aware of the contract, the amount of work they will do and get everything in writing, do not discuss the work being done by telephone, everything in writing. I am in no way saying that every Search Engine Optimisation company out there acts in any way that would not be ethical but this blog is absolute proof of the tactics and ethics of First Found Manchester. BEWARE.
Every comment I make in this blog is from experience of using First Found and also their letters. I can and will provide copies to any person who should request to see them.
Leven Consultants Limited t/a FirstFound (aka First Found Manchester)
Registered Number: 3710736
St James's Buildings
Tel: 0161 909 3400