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9ad0eba6
Community Member

Upwork Mediator looks to be favouring client during a dispute

Hey everyone, I am currently in a tight spot and I need some help.

 

So here's my story. I entered into an hourly contract with a client about 11 months ago (June 2023) and we had been working week after week since then with no issues. The client loved my work and we were getting along well. The client initially stated that I should aim to use 3hrs per article which was no problem. But then the scope expanded and the hourly limit was raised as I had to spend more time working on the articles. 

We had been working smoothly until last week when the client ended the contract and said I had been overbilling him for all the time I spent on the articles since last year and now he wants a full refund of all the money on the contract [About $7k]. Now, the client initially filed a dispute and asked me to refund the last 2 weeks of work because the client claimed there were 'low activities' and also claimed I was doing no work (when in reality I was actually still working on the project). I issued this refund and also an extra week of work.

After, ending the contract, the client kept sending refund requests and claimed that if I do not refund all the money for the entire project, he will report me for scamming him and make Upwork shut down my account. The client requested mediation assistance and sent claims that I had been scamming him for over 10 months (while he was actually using my work week after week) and I provided evidence of the work done.

Now, the mediator says if I don't provide as much refund as possible, he will escalate the ticket and he hinted at my account getting suspended (even though Upwork TOS states that mediators should only provide a non-binding resolution). Please what do I do?

49 REPLIES 49
spectralua
Community Member

It is correct, mediators should only provide a non-binding resolution. Only arbitration can decide that. Most likely you met an unskilled worker.

9ad0eba6
Community Member

I also thought as much, Mykola. The Upwork Mediator didn't even consider that I had refunded the initial amount the client wanted. He just said 'If you don't provide a refund to the client, I will escalate this ticket and we'll take actions on your account.' I don't understand how a client claims you had been scamming them for over 10 months while using your work, and now they want a full refund.

tjmisny
Community Member

Also... Oluwadamilola, I just looked at your profile.  You have 100% JSS and a Top Rated Plus badge!  And a long history of earnings/satisfied clients.  How on Earth can Upwork think that you have been scamming this client for 10+ months??

 

I am furious about this on your behalf.  I'm an Upwork Expert Vetted freelancer with 100% JSS and nearly $400k earnings... if I can help in any way, please let me know.  

9ad0eba6
Community Member

Hi Thomas, I am just as surprised as you are. I sent the Mediator proof of work done for 10 months but I'm not sure he even gave it a look at all. He simply said I risk losing my account if I do not refund the money. He gave me a deadline of End of day tomorrow [May 21st] to reply. I sent him a quote of Upwork's rules regarding hourly disputes but I have gotten no response. Looks like Upwork has chosen a side already.

tjmisny
Community Member

It's shocking that this mediator would resort to threatening you.  Give back all the money or you will lose your account.  This is totally unacceptable to me as an Upwork user.... 

tjmisny
Community Member

It's upsetting for me to read ANOTHER account of a scammer client abusing a Freelancer and Upwork's Trust and Safety team siding with the scammer client.  This is the 3rd one I've read about in the forums in the past week.

 

Upwork - we are noticing this change in policy!  It's not too late to conduct business more fairly before the word gets out.  

0ad05123
Community Member

 Itโ€™s really concerning to see this happening. Platforms like Upwork need to maintain fairness and protect freelancers. Hopefully, they will address these issues promptly and restore trust.

spectralua
Community Member

$7,085.00, is it?

Yes, Mykola. That's the contract.

Arbitration cost will be an 400 (check actual amount in ToS). Given what you described you have a good chance. You can insist on an independent decision. With the decision in your favor upwork will also have to accept it.

According to what I read in Upwork's TOS, there's no arbitration for hourly contracts. Section 7.2 in Upwork's TOS also says that - If Client or Freelancer contacts Upwork via support ticket within 30 days of the date of the last payment from Client to Freelancer and requests non-binding dispute assistance for any dispute among them (a โ€œDisputeโ€), Upwork will attempt to assist Client and Freelancer by reviewing the Dispute and proposing a mutual, non-binding resolution. Upwork will only review the 30 days of work performed prior to the date a User requests Dispute Assistance. But it doesn't look like the rules are followed in all instances.

The Mediator did not even attempt to provide a mutual resolution. All he says is you either refund or we could ban your account.

I have seen several threads where arbitration was requested for hourly contracts. I offered you one of the ways. But if you are afraid for your account and decide to return the money then perhaps you should not insist on this. Your choice.

I'm just wondering why a freelancer would refund a penny if they've been doing all the work, let alone refunding an additional week for free. I also know that Upwork offers protection as long as the activity levels are reasonable. Finally, if I were in this situation, I wouldn't hesitate a second to use an arbitrary rather than lose thousands of hard-earned work. I'm not claiming that the freelancer did something wrong, but I do feel that some information is missing here.

The client claimed those hours didn't have enough 'activity levels.' This is a job that had gone so well for a long time and I didn't want it to end badly. But when I was asked for a full refund, it just didn't make any sense to me. Also, there's a part I forgot to include. I worked only with one person through the 10 months of the contract but it's a different person entirely I am facing the dispute with. The person I worked for during the entire 10-month duration is no where to be found to defend the work I have been doing.

tjmisny
Community Member

My instinct is that the Mediator is making an empty threat.  Call his/her bluff, and keep fighting!  

9ad0eba6
Community Member

I'll definitely keep fighting. It just doesn't make sense to refund over 10 months of work that has been used by the client week after week with no complaints about quality.


 wrote:

I'll definitely keep fighting. It just doesn't make sense to refund over 10 months of work that has been used by the client week after week with no complaints about quality.


It doesn't sound like they're complaining about quality; they're complaining about the low activity levels, i.e. it took you longer than it should have, therefore you charged them more than you should have. 

lysis10
Community Member


 wrote:

My instinct is that the Mediator is making an empty threat.  Call his/her bluff, and keep fighting!  


No no no. Don't do this. They can suspend your account. Do what they tell you to do. 


I want to clear up something people in this thread are confusing -- hourly disputes are not the same as escrow disputes. Arbitration is for escrow disputes. The freelancer said it's an hourly contract. The mediator will ask questions and you can say no to a refund, but if the mediator is *telling* you to refund, they think something shady was going on. There is more to the OP's story. If he worked weekly and was working as expected, he can say no to a refund. It sounds like something shady was going on. If the mediator tells him to refund or get suspended, then it's what you have to do.

 

For the people telling you that the mediator can't suspend you, this is terrible advice and wrong.

Lately I've seen a threads where clients threaten freelancers with arbitration in order to get a refund. And upwork supported them in this. These were hourly contracts.


 wrote:

Lately I've seen a threads where clients threaten freelancers with arbitration in order to get a refund. And upwork supported them in this. These were hourly contracts.


Freelancers say a lot of things and very few of them are correct when it comes to disputes ๐Ÿ™‚

 

It's possible OP isn't even understanding the mediator properly. There is a difference between a suggestion and a demand, and most freelancers fail to understand the difference. I doubt the client is scamming OP too. Look at the job history. OP is the only one with insanely high hours compared to the others who got 5 stars and hired at the same time. He billed 512 hours in about a year. It sounds like he billed 10 hours every single week to the contract. What are the chances he wasn't authorized to do so? The others didn't do it. There is someone with about 280 hours for the same job but others had much smaller amounts.

 

Once again, more to the freelancer's story.

I agree with you that we don't know the truth. The freelancer may lie or not tell everything. Or tell the truth.

I wonder how Oluwadamilola's situation was resolved. The deadline for response has passed. I hope he will update us.


 wrote:

I agree with you that we don't know the truth. The freelancer may lie or not tell everything. Or tell the truth.

I wonder how Oluwadamilola's situation was resolved. The deadline for response has passed. I hope he will update us.


If the mediator suspected fraud, his choice will be to refund or get suspended.

yofazza
Community Member

Despite what really happened and what the mediator really said, I'm not sure if they have that power to ban people around. (At least) some of them are Upwork freelancers, listed as customer service, worked by scripts and SOPs.

 

 

the mediator says if I don't provide as much refund as possible, he will escalate the ticket and he hinted at my account getting suspended

This makes sense.

lysis10
Community Member


 wrote:

Despite what really happened and what the mediator really said, I'm not sure if they have that power to ban people around. (At least) some of them are Upwork freelancers, listed as customer service, worked by scripts and SOPs.

 

 

the mediator says if I don't provide as much refund as possible, he will escalate the ticket and he hinted at my account getting suspended

This makes sense.


Whether or not they have the power to physically click the button to ban is irrelevant. If you do some of the things people here are saying, you will get banned. If he is forced to pay back the charges because the mediator suspects fraud, his financial accounts will be suspended. Do not "call the mediator's bluff" or anything like that. If the mediator tells you to do something, you have to do it.

48f850a0
Community Member

Lol, I understand why you would type this, you probably haven't experienced disputes, when I was getting started on Upwork, I had a 300$ job, a client needed a mask modeled, I delivered everything according to the client specification. Out of the blues, the client claimed that "he didn't like it" ended contract and requested refund. Now the joke of a mediator gave his opinion that I should get paid 75$ out of a 300$ job that was completed and he can see clearly that the job was accurate, that day marked the point I knew when things go south, Upwork and their group will tend to side the client... Ofcus I refused such decision and was ready to go to arbitration until the scam client finally agreed to pay 200$... Now imagine if I shut up and got scammed by both Upwork and that client??? You need to know your rights... You aren't a slave on Upwork. If a client has a bad day doesn't mean you should refund work you wasted your hours to do. Common!!


Emmanuel N. wrote:

Lol, I understand why you would type this, you probably haven't experienced disputes


Uh, LOL, yeah, she has experienced disputes, and should be listened to because she's the only one in this thread who's making any sense.

 


Emmanuel N. wrote:

If a client has a bad day doesn't mean you should refund work you wasted your hours to do. Common!!


Why does nearly everyone in this forum assume that the client is always in the wrong? We haven't heard both sides of the story. The OP admits that he had low activity levels - why hasn't anyone asked why this is?

 

Okay, I'll ask. Oluwadamilola, why did you have low activity levels? If the time tracker has a bunch of screen captures that look like you weren't actually working on the project, that's the most obvious explanation as to why the mediator is telling you to refund the client. And Upwork absolutely can ban your account if it looks like you were trying to milk your hours.

I think you have a problem reading and understanding, try to read first before you type, the OP clearly stated he refunded all the hours that were indicated as low activity already, but the mediator has said if he doesn't refund the whole amount, full 10months of work back that his account will be banned. You know what would be amazing, you being in this situation, would be perfect. What exactly would you do? (Next thing i believe I'll see next is someone claiming to be the all knowing Upwork goddess!)

lysis10
Community Member


 wrote:

Lol, I understand why you would type this, you probably haven't experienced disputes


Stopped reading here. lol

48f850a0
Community Member

If you have, then makes it worse, you read the entire post and suggested that the freelancer might have commited fraud, that's awesome! What might have caused your dispute? Fraud as well?

lysis10
Community Member


 wrote:

If you have, then makes it worse, you read the entire post and suggested that the freelancer might have commited fraud, that's awesome! What might have caused your dispute? Fraud as well?


yeah cuz idc about proving or being right with a bunch of angry freelancers sitting crying about connects all day. I just want to point out that the advice in this thread is incredibly bad and can get you permabanned. I know exactly how disputes work. I'll repeat -- a suggestion and a demand are two different things. If the mediator *suggests* that you should maybe give them some money back, you can say no. If the mediator suspects fraud (and I'm leaning towards fraud here myself) and *demands* a refund, then you have to do it. 

 

If there is a demand, then he won't have a choice anyway. His financial accounts will be suspended and his profile will run in the red until the debt is paid.

48f850a0
Community Member

You are typing gibberish, everything you typed is clearly stated in the same thread. You really need to learn to read

ArjayM
Community Member

Hi Emmanuel and Valued Members,

 

We are grateful for the open dialogue our community members engage in here. We want to remind everyone that the Upwork Community is a professional forum and encourage everyone to provide constructive feedback. Remember that when posting comments that specifically identify or address an individual, you refer to an actual person.

 

Please remember that we are a community of professionals. We appreciate the passion, but we should all use a professional, respectful approach when posting in the forums. 

 

~ Arjay
Upwork
48f850a0
Community Member

Why not quit coming to the community to type **Edited for Community Guidelines**? How long have you been on Upwork? ,20 years? Shouldn't you be more sensible in typing?

erinvega2016
Community Member

Since this was an hourly contract, did you use the Upwork timeclock? This is the proof you need to send to mediator. If you used Upwork's timeclock, provided sufficient memos of the tasks you were working on, and the screenshots showed significant activity than you should not be worried. 

 

Yes, Erin. I used Upwork's time tracker. I already sent that to the mediator but I'm not sure he even read through all the proof of work I sent. He seemed to suggest that periods of 'low activity' were actually violations of Upwork's TOS and they could take down my account for it. Don't forget that these 'low activity' hours were already refunded to the client, but immediately after he ended the contract he began asking for a full refund and the mediator sided with him.

f74cdfab
Community Member

This is really alarming. Upwork seems to be getting more notorious by the day for issues like this. It's concerning that such situations can happen to any of us, and Upwork might side with scammers who exploit freelancers. Freelancers invest significant time and effort into their work, and itโ€™s disheartening to see these kinds of disputes arise, especially when there seems to be a lack of proper support from Upwork. We need better protections and fair mediation processes to ensure freelancers arenโ€™t taken advantage of.

Yes, Carlo. I honestly cannot wrap my head around using a person's work for over 10 months and then asking for a full refund at the end of the contract. 

48f850a0
Community Member

Hi, The mediator can take no action on your account.

Also for hourly contracts it's clearly stated that refund is at the discretion of the freelancer or agency. What you have isn't even an actual dispute, it's just a mediation, the mediator is supposed to try to help the client convince you to refund. If you tracked hours correctly and sent work consistently, you don't even need to respond further to that chat with the mediator or the client.

Check out screenshots here. 

Screenshot_20240521-044147.png

โ€ƒ

Yes, I quoted that part of the TOS and sent it to the mediator but unfortunately I got no response. He simply ignored the message and he just gave me a deadline [May 21st] to respond to the full refund request of the client.

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