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HELP! Possibly dealing with a fradulent biotech company

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HELP! Possibly dealing with a fradulent biotech company

Postby Imogen S. » Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:33 am

Hi everyone,

This may be a long post, so please bear with me...I've excluded details, but I'd appreciate any feedback.

I've ordered a custom product from a biotech company and I am afraid I have been scammed! As soon as I made the payment, no more updates were given. It completely spooked me when I didn't receive the product or updates within the proposed deadline. I ended up calling constantly for updates, each time being told that it will be delivered soon but not now as they were dealing with technical difficulties. I was extremely concerned as I thought they may not be capable to actually do this project. I ended up getting the product but it took twice as long as the proposed timeline.

Real problem came when one of I had some problem using this product (I do this experiment routinely without a problem), and I realized they offered no quality control (QC) but only contained a simple "design sheet." I contacted the company and they offered "QC," which were practically nonsense (some incomplete, some straight-up wrong) and even the "design sheet" was different from the first one, leading me to believe that whatever they've sent may very well be junk! I asked for the custom product to be sent again with proper QC, to which they replied with a threat that they needed 1/6 of the $$$ I've paid in the beginning as handling fee or they would disregard this project entirely.

One of my colleague is convinced that they are fraudulent, probably incapable of doing this project and just want money. He is right in a sense that at this point it has dragged to 3x the length of initial proposed time, with no real product or QC to prove it, with extremely inappropriate responses. He is also right as in anyone could send junk in a tube and claim it is something.

At this point, I've consulted a friend who is in law to write a semi formal letter of complaint. He also investigated and found some legal disputes and qualification issues. The company responded somewhat loosely to the complaint but promised to send me the product again at no cost. Then,they've sent me the same QC (no product yet) again insisting that it's correct (doesn't make sense for reasons stated above) without even indicating which "design sheet," is the correct one.

My PI simply told me to "deal with it," and I am not quite sure what to do. My colleagues expect me to take charge and responsibility since I was the who ordered from them (I should have researched more. Yikes!) I cannot make up my mind whether they are 100% trying to con me or they are simply incapable but trying to make the product (they've previously sent me the product in a rather outdated, even primitive fashion). I've kept all records/documents and the original product they've sent me. I can do QC on my own, but it's been a hassle and I don't want to spend anymore time, energy, or money dealing with this junk.

Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks in advance!
Imogen S.
 
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Re: HELP! Possibly dealing with a fradulent biotech company

Postby PG » Thu Oct 01, 2015 2:34 am

That small biotechcompanies and especially startups are having various manufacturing issues and sometimes not fully established procedures for QC or other things is something that happens especially if the products they sell are not regulated by FDA or other authorities.

There is a big difference between fradulent ie on purpose trying to cheat your customers and incompetence / lack of experience in the organization.

Pursuing this as a legal action is likely to take time and resources and the outcome is unclear. My suggestion would be to try to get to an agreement in which you can send whatever product that you have received back to ghe company and get your money back then drop the question and never buy from them again.
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Re: HELP! Possibly dealing with a fradulent biotech company

Postby Dave Walker » Thu Oct 01, 2015 6:00 am

Hi Imogen,

So you paid for a custom service, received it (with delay), and are unhappy with what you got? And the company has not shown good customer service, but eventually agreed to send you it again? There is a chance the second batch may be equally broken.

Since you are already receiving a second product I think you have finished your options with them. Clearly they don't value you as a customer. You could ask for a refund, and you might get it if you bother them enough...however, I don't know if that is the best use of your time. If you are under a deadline, it might be best to find a new company to deal with. (If you could find the salesperson for a competing company and tell them that you want a discount to switch from these bad guys, you might get one!)

As far as the legal option, it sounds like it's way beyond your job duties. You mention you have a PI, are you in an academic lab? Do you have a purchasing department, or a finance department that handles invoicing? If you think the company didn't deliver, I would hope your institution would be able to pick up the legal issue and send in their own lawyers. That really is not the best use of your time, I think.

Your PI says "deal with it" -- come up with a plan to either hire a new company, make the item yourself or find another way. Get feedback on the plan, and then do it! And then move on with your life :)
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
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Re: HELP! Possibly dealing with a fradulent biotech company

Postby Cory » Thu Oct 01, 2015 10:01 am

Welcome to the wild west of biological reagents. After 15 years of rigorously evaluating biological products I can emphatically tell you that your experience is not uncommon. Even major vendors have frequent and serious shortcomings with catalog products. In fact, I've just finished evaluating a recombinant protein ordered from 4 vendors. Three of four products were degraded, two contained only 10% of the stated protein content on the COA, and one was a highly impure fusion protein product as opposed to the single protein as indicated.

Custom projects are even harder and should only be undertaken under a series of small pilot projects that pay for incremental steps toward the delivery of a final product. Once the runway has been laid out, the final product is purchased under a delivery agreement with specifications, obligations and recourse spelled out.

It sounds like you are in an academic environment so it's unlikely that the legal department will pick up your cause. Perhaps you could find a sympathetic ear and get someone to write a stern letter in hopes that the company will finally produce but in reality that's about the most you could ask for.

If I were in your shoes, I'd take this as a learning experience and walk away from the current vendor. Then, make lots of calls to other vendors, build a relationship or two, pay for low stakes pilot projects where you ask for and participate in achieving specific outcomes that will give you the confidence your vendor is capable, then decide how to get a purchase agreement that meets your needs and the needs of the vendor.

Good luck!

Cory
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Re: HELP! Possibly dealing with a fradulent biotech company

Postby Imogen S. » Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:05 pm

PG wrote:That small biotechcompanies and especially startups are having various manufacturing issues and sometimes not fully established procedures for QC or other things is something that happens especially if the products they sell are not regulated by FDA or other authorities.

There is a big difference between fradulent ie on purpose trying to cheat your customers and incompetence / lack of experience in the organization.

Pursuing this as a legal action is likely to take time and resources and the outcome is unclear. My suggestion would be to try to get to an agreement in which you can send whatever product that you have received back to ghe company and get your money back then drop the question and never buy from them again.


Hi PG! Thanks for your reply. To my surprise, it sounds like this is not an uncommon problem! Since you seem quite experienced, could you suggest some ways to protect myself from this situation? I;ed liek to avoid I felt extremely alarmed when they asked me for a 2nd payment when they could not even prove that the product is actually correct and not junk. If this is allowed, I myself can set up a company that is not of my expertise and start selling incompetent products (can't even call it a product) and get away with it. It's like I've paid for a new car but the car doesn't run and has no emissions test record (look what happened to VW) yet the manufacturer wants more $$ from me for whatever reason. I need, or rather must see the emissions test record but the company won't provide for an unknown reason. This is fraud according to law. PG, when I think about it, what they sell is actually sensitive and is definitely regulated; thanks for the reminder! I doubt this company would want to go to court, since I've kept all records/documents/product and I will likely win the lawsuit (product is in 4 figures and not worth the trouble though). However, if I am forced to take action, this matter won't be the only thing I will take to court... I will try to get a refund as you've suggested, in case I don't get what I've paid for again. It's just upsetting that I've wasted so much time and my PI is totally furious at me.
Last edited by Imogen S. on Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: HELP! Possibly dealing with a fradulent biotech company

Postby Imogen S. » Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:09 pm

Dave Walker wrote:Hi Imogen,

So you paid for a custom service, received it (with delay), and are unhappy with what you got? And the company has not shown good customer service, but eventually agreed to send you it again? There is a chance the second batch may be equally broken.

Since you are already receiving a second product I think you have finished your options with them. Clearly they don't value you as a customer. You could ask for a refund, and you might get it if you bother them enough...however, I don't know if that is the best use of your time. If you are under a deadline, it might be best to find a new company to deal with. (If you could find the salesperson for a competing company and tell them that you want a discount to switch from these bad guys, you might get one!)

As far as the legal option, it sounds like it's way beyond your job duties. You mention you have a PI, are you in an academic lab? Do you have a purchasing department, or a finance department that handles invoicing? If you think the company didn't deliver, I would hope your institution would be able to pick up the legal issue and send in their own lawyers. That really is not the best use of your time, I think.

Your PI says "deal with it" -- come up with a plan to either hire a new company, make the item yourself or find another way. Get feedback on the plan, and then do it! And then move on with your life :)


Thanks for your reply. I really appreciate it! The problem is that I've never received what I've paid for. It's like I've paid to purchase a new car but it doesn't run and has no emissions test record (look what happened to VW) yet the manufacturer wants more $$ from me for whatever reason. In this case, I am actually capable of making this product myself (I won't have $$ to order again anyway, so I will have to do it on my own), but asked a company to do it, because I thought it would save me time and trouble. You can imagine my PI is furious at me... I will wait to see the quality second batch of products, but will try to get a refund if it fails again. Dave, thank you so much for the discount suggestion! I will use that line in the future.
Imogen S.
 
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Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2015 11:41 pm

Re: HELP! Possibly dealing with a fradulent biotech company

Postby Imogen S. » Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:23 pm

Cory wrote:Welcome to the wild west of biological reagents. After 15 years of rigorously evaluating biological products I can emphatically tell you that your experience is not uncommon. Even major vendors have frequent and serious shortcomings with catalog products. In fact, I've just finished evaluating a recombinant protein ordered from 4 vendors. Three of four products were degraded, two contained only 10% of the stated protein content on the COA, and one was a highly impure fusion protein product as opposed to the single protein as indicated.

Custom projects are even harder and should only be undertaken under a series of small pilot projects that pay for incremental steps toward the delivery of a final product. Once the runway has been laid out, the final product is purchased under a delivery agreement with specifications, obligations and recourse spelled out.

It sounds like you are in an academic environment so it's unlikely that the legal department will pick up your cause. Perhaps you could find a sympathetic ear and get someone to write a stern letter in hopes that the company will finally produce but in reality that's about the most you could ask for.

If I were in your shoes, I'd take this as a learning experience and walk away from the current vendor. Then, make lots of calls to other vendors, build a relationship or two, pay for low stakes pilot projects where you ask for and participate in achieving specific outcomes that will give you the confidence your vendor is capable, then decide how to get a purchase agreement that meets your needs and the needs of the vendor.

Good luck!

Cory
.

Hi Cory! I appreciate your input. I've learned my lesson and next time when I order custom products I will pay in increments and actively participate as you've suggested, Previously, I've only ordered from biotech and pharma giants and never experienced big problems such as timeline, quality (major!), or inappropriate customer service. The thing is I never got what I've paid for and that is a major problem...It's like I've paid for a new running car but it doesn't run and has no emissions test record (look what happened to VW) yet the manufacturer wants more $$ from me for whatever reason. How did you deal with the protein issue? I will ask for a refund in case it fails to deliver again, but I am so upset I've wasted so much time.I've ended up learning so much about this company from a lawyer friend (thank you so much, you know who ;-) who dug up so much dirt and compiled a file for me. Like many of you have mentioned, it is not a good use of my time, but I will probably have to take action in worst-case scenario by submitting all of the materials.
Imogen S.
 
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