- Did you pay the whole sum up front? If not, obviously, you should hold off on making any additional payments until this matter is sorted properly. Did you pay with a credit card; if so check with the provider to determine whether you can dispute the payment. Ditto for PayPal.
- Are you sure that your contract states that you are obligated to make the recommended changes? That seems a little odd ... agreeing ahead of time to make unknown changes. Are you sure there isn't some sort of approval process? If not, your situation becomes a bit murky, especially because you apparently gave them access to your site in order to modify it.
- Perhaps you can claim non-performance of duties. Just because the company mucked about in your website doesn't mean they performed their services. From your description of what happened, it sounds as if the company breached the contract by going beyond standard SEO techniques and interfering directly with your marketing. The fee-to-free fiasco seems particularly irksome.
- Where is the company located and what does the agreement say about disputes? If, by some miracle, the company is located in your home state, that will make it easier to sue in small claims court and recover. Does the agreement have a jurisdiction provision explaining where you have to sue, or an attorney fee provision guaranteeing the winning party their attorney fees?
- If you gave the SEO company the keys to your site ... In case you haven't done so already, it's time to change the access password in order to prevent any further setbacks.
- Have you informed the company of your displeasure? After you've reviewed all your options above, you should send a notice (see if the contract has notice requirements) informing the company of your displeasure and letting them know that you consider them in breach and -- for what it's worth -- that you want a full refund. This is sometimes a prerequisite for small claims court or credit card claims.
- Can you sue for copyright infringement? Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use or modification of a work. If you gave the company access to your site and permission to modify, your problem will more likely be considered a contractual dispute, rather than a copyright claim.
Posted by Mr. Q at 6:00 AM Tuesday, March 20, 2012