Customers are still waiting for refunds more than four months after Perth ISP Web Advance seemingly dropped off the map, leaving at least 20 consumers and small business end-users in the lurch.
Web Advance and associated website Web Domains -- registered as a co-operative in the name of Perth-based David Scrimshaw -- stopped responding to customer inquiries and messages late last year. Websites went down, emails bounced back and phone calls went completely unanswered.
Bruce Hawkins, a spokesperson at Western Australia's Department of Consumer and Employment Protection (DOCEP), in February tracked Scrimshaw to his home in a Perth suburb. Scrimshaw claimed to be totally unaware that customers could not contact his company, Hawkins said.
The Web Advance proprietor had set up what he called a "fully automated" customer service system that he believed required no human input to administer, Hawkins said.
The Department had in February asked Scrimshaw to refund customers that had paid for services they had not received. Some 20 customers could be affected, Hawkins said.
However, Ryan McAvoy, proprietor of Whirl Media web design and former business customer of Web Advance, said he had not heard from either the Department or Web Advance.
"I have had a terrible experience with Web Advance," he said.
Last financial year, McAvoy had opened four hosting accounts and one domain account with Web Advance. Then, the Perth ISP "basically folded" in November, just after he had renewed his own account.
"All my attempts to contact the company have failed, and I have hit a legal brick wall as far as recouping some costs go. I have one very annoyed customer whose domain name cannot be retrieved because Web Advance register this name with a separate company who will only give details to the owner," McAvoy said.
Bob Doss, an IT consultant working for Infomedia and at Spiritlake Consulting, had also asked for a refund but not heard anything.
"I have lost my website with these jokers and the phone is disconnected -- I paid for a year hosting up front," he said.
Service from Web Advance had always been slow, Doss added.
Meanwhile, Amanda Salisbury, a Queensland-based freelance photographer, had received warnings to renew her domain name, imagesbyamanda.net, in March, although she had already shifted service providers since losing access to her Web Advance-hosted website late last year.
DOCEP's Hawkins said that Scrimshaw had been "a bit tardy" on getting the matter resolved.
"He does not have a phone so I have to visit him at his premises," he said. "He seems to operate on a shoe string and does not have access at his home to records of the company."
Hawkins also said that Scrimshaw was challenging "one or two" former customers' rights to a refund but had promised to re-check the records.
"David Scrimshaw has advised that the Web Domains registration site was corrected," Hawkins said.
Web Domains, at http://www.webdomains.com.au, appears to be working, but customers seeking support are directed to a US phone number and e-payment gateway. No other contact details are provided on the public part of the site.
Scrimshaw at the time of writing had not responded to requests for an interview.