Smart Certify Company Profile
Street View of Office Building Smart Certify Resides In
Smart Certify Investigative Report
Original report created on May 31, 2004
On May 17, 2004, I signed up for services with ForeFront Direct, Inc. This was after numerous messages left on my answering machine. I should have went with my instincts and should have told them to leave me alone.
My first encounter with ForeFront Direct, Inc. was quite a few months back. I had filled out their contact form requesting information on their certification training. The representative I spoke too seemed OK at first. This was until he realized I did not have the money to pay for the overpriced courses.
The representative tried numerous sales tactics, but with no avail. I did not have the money at the time. There was no point in badgering me for something I didn't have. When I finally and bluntly told him I didn't have the money, he responded, "I guess you are not really serious about getting your certifications." From then, I hung up on him. His comment was very unprofessional.
Since then, I had received quite a few messages on my answering machine from Smart Certify. I finally called them back and talked to someone. I had eventually agreed to their program. I was sent an e-mail in which I had to "login." to the account. I was told that in order for my account to be created, I had to login. Therefore, I logged in.
I looked over the courses and was not impressed. When I got home from work that same day, I looked over the courses again. Still, I found nothing worth what I was being charged for the courses. For a one year blanket access, I was to be charged $200.00/month for nine months (total of $1800.00). I sent an e-mail requesting cancellation of my service. I was told that per the terms of service agreement, I could not get a refund. It was recommended I contact customer service.
I called customer service (this is the day after I signed up). I was basically given the runaround. I was told that if I had not logged in to the account, I could have gotten a refund. This made (and still does not make) any sense. If I had not logged in initially, I would have not had the account created. Therefore, there would be no account at all. In which, there would not have been a $200.00 charge to my bank account. Finally, if there would not have had no charge to my bank account, there would be no money to refund. The customer service representative's statement completely contradicted itself.
I kept asking for a refund because past that statement, the only response I was getting was the representative quoting the terms of service agreement. Finally, I asked if they has customer service satisfaction guarantees. I was told no. I finally asked bluntly if I was getting a refund or not. I was told no. I hung up the phone and then filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Department of Justice.
It should be noted that Smart Certify, Inc. seems to have a shady practice. Their only refund is a 120-day money back guarantee. Of which, in order to receive a refund on a particular program, you must FAIL a certification test TWICE. It costs more to take a certification test twice than it does for one of their programs. Even if you studied their materials and memorized it and failed a certification test, your investment would still be negative/in the red.
I personally would not advise anyone to deal with this company. Their representatives are rude (on that one occasion mentioned), when asked certain questions, they give generic and contradicting statements. That alone sends up a caution flag about a company.
Currently, including mine, there have been five complaints filed against this company with the Pinellas County Department of Justice. You can view the list here. In the search box, just type in Smart Certify. There are currnetly 12 complaints filed against Smart Certify on ripoffreport.com. You can view the list here.
According to the BBB, the following information is on record:
"The Bureau has received a pattern of complaints concerning selling practices, product quality, refund disputes, unsatisfactory performance, and credit and billing problems, All complaints have been answered. Many of the complaints have been resolved but some remain disputed."
When you use the statement "All complaints have been answered.", this only means that Smart Certify responded to the complaint, it does not mean the company made good their wrongs.
The company information was obtained from public resources:
Smart Certify Investigative Report Updates
Update! June 24, 2004 3:01 P.M. (CDT/-600 GMT)
Today I called the Pinellas County Department of Justice to get the status on my complaint. It was stated that a copy of the businesses' (Smart Certify) response is in the mail. I was given a brief overview of what the letter stated. To me, it seems as if the company sent a response similar to what I was told on the phone and via e-mail. All the company did was state the terms of service. In other words, it seems to me as if the company does not plan on giving a refund.
I was told that the company would be called either today or tomorrow morning in regards to the matter. I explained to the lady at the Pinellas County DOJ that I would not accept any offerings other than my $200.00 refund. I explained that I did not want to make any attempts in using Smart Certify's programs. I do not want to have any dealings with a rip-off company. I further explained that it could not just be me. From what I saw, they (Smart Certify) have a record with the BBB for the same or similar issues I am bringing up now. They (Smart Certify) also have five (including mine) complaints against them with the Pinellas County Department of Justice.
I will not be getting my hopes up for my refund. Smart Certify seems to be another one of those companies which like to rip people off and hide behind their contracts (even though what they do may not be legally wrong, but morally wrong). I have noticed more and more companies becoming this way A final word of advice is to simply stay away from this company. There are many books and kits on the Internet which are much cheaper than using useless programs from companies like Smart Certify.
Yesterday, July 20, 2004, I had received a call on my answering machine from Smart Certify's billing department. I found it odd that their billing department would call a day before I was to have a conference call with Smart Certify. I received yet another call today (1:14 P.M, CDT/-600 GMT) from their billing department. I notified them that I would not be making any payments.
Today, July 21, 2004 (8:14 A.M. (CDT/-600 GMT), I had a conference call between the Pinellas County Department of Justice, Smart Certify (Jennifer Rohrbough, Executive Assistant and Jason Shields, Operating Manager) and myself. The purpose of the call was to reach an agreement of some sort. This did not happen. As usual, Smart Certify hid behind their contract. Seemingly unable to do nothing more than quote phrases from their contract instead of answering questions directly.
The representatives (mainly Mr. Shields) of Smart Certify gave a few weak arguments for reasons to not refund my money. The first reason was that if they (Smart Certify) gave me a refund and violated their own contract, then they would have to do that for everyone. Last time I checked, business matters were supposed to be in favor of satisfying a customer. That does not seem the case with Smart Certify. That is like Wal-Mart saying, "I'm sorry, we can't accept that defective coffee maker. If we did, then we'd have to do that for everyone."
Another excuse was that I had "accessed" the website. The contract I agreed to was the selling of access to what Smart Certify has in their libraries, etc. As I had explained to them numerous times was the fact I had accessed their site a total of maybe an hour. This matter lead to their confusion of their own logs.
It was stated by Smart Certify that I had "10 downloads" and had taken "7 tests." The fact of the matter being I had tried to download their offline software 10 times. As for 7 tests, I had only taken 7 pages of one test. When I asked the Smart Certify representatives about this, Mr. Shields stated that he did not know whether it was 10 separate downloads or 10 download attempts. He also stated he did not know whether it was 7 tests or 7 pages of one test as I had stated. For a company which teaches "IT training", I find it odd that they don't have technology as simple as being able to tell what their users are doing/being charged for. Furthermore, I find it odd that Smart Certify would initially use the "downloads" as an argument and once confronted with questions of validity, back down.
A representative from the Pinellas County Department of Justice (Mr. Doug Tamplenta) had suggested that since I had already paid $200.00 and did not want to continue the service, to simply accept the $200.00 as payment in full and and end the contract. I would no longer have access to the Smart Certify services, but the contract would be paid in full. Mr. Shields simply started quoting the contract and the reasoning behind not making exceptions for people (see the second paragraph above). It seems to me that Smart Certify is determined to try and get more money out of me for an inferior service.
Another incident was during the conversation, I was in the middle of speaking and Mr. Shields from Smart Certify rudely interrupted and continued to talk until I finally had to interrupt him so that I could attempt to finish my sentence. I see nothing but a lack of professionalism from Smart Certify.
It was finally stated that they are standing on their decision and will not be giving me a refund. It also seems as if they are not willing to compromise in any fashion. The representatives of Smart Certify said that they may regroup in the future, but as for now, they are standing with their decision.
It is now fully concluded that Smart Certify seems to be in it for the money and nothing more. They do not seem to be concerned with customer satisfaction. This entire report (this statement and the report below) leads me to that conclusion. For those thinking of signing up with Smart Certify, save your money and time. Once you sign up, you are stuck. It does not matter whether you only signed in and browsed around the site for 5 minutes. It is highly unlikely you will get any of your money back.
Complaints will be filed with the BBB, FTC and State of Florida Attorney General's Office. I feel that as many reporting agencies as possible should be notified of Smart Certify's shady practices. Smart Certify will be notified of this report. They also have the option of posting a rebuttal on the forum.
I received a call from the Pinellas County DOJ today. The call was to notify me that Smart Certify still stands on their decision. During the conference call, Mr. Shields mentioned to Smart Certify that there were other and similar complaints against them (filed with the Pinellas County DOJ). The call to the Pinellas County DOJ was to notify them also that they had looked at the other cases and they were not similar to mine.
Updates were done on the July 21, 2004 post. Specific names were added to replace the pronouns used as well as grammatical errors were corrected.
Information on resources used in the investigation were added.
Since my last encounter with Smart Certify (the conference call), I have received two statements (invoice/bill) from Smart Certify. On the statement, I could either call Smart Certify about making payments or by sending an e-mail to someone name Lynette Miller.
When I received the first statement, I contacted Ms. Miller via e-mail (Lmiller@smartcertify.com) on July 24, 2004. The e-mail stated that she should look at what was really going on with Smart Certify before she continued to send me invoices. I even gave her the website address to this report.
A couple weeks went by and I received the same statement again. I sent another e-mail to Ms. Miller on August 15, 2004. I had decided on August 15, 2004 to simply call her also and find out if she ever received the e-mail from the previous two weeks and the one I had sent that day. Originally I received her voicemail. I left my name and number. She did call back that day. Firstly I asked her if she had received my e-mails. She stated she did. I am wondering then, why did she ignore them. Why did she not contact me back?
I explained to her the situation as well as how Smart Certify did not attempt to compromise in any way, shape or form when dealing with the matter. I further stated that it seemed as if Smart Certify was determined to try and force me to pay for a contract of a service that is completely worthless as well as after the fact of being ripped off.
As with the rest of the Smart Certify representatives, she started quoting the contract. She would never directly answer my questions. She did state that they could "force" me to pay (legal action). I stated that would be find because if necessary, I would be filing a class action against Smart Certify. She stated that she would check with Mr. Shields to see if he would be willing to compromise. She further stated she would call me back. I have yet to receive a call back. This is no surprise to me. Firstly I am contacted in regards to "owing" them money. I notify them of this report and they do not respond to me whatsoever. When I call them and confront them. I am told I will be called back and I have not heard a single response.
I have decided to file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office of the State of Florida as well as the BBB. As I have commented in previous updates on this report. Do not waste your money or time on Smart Certify. It is in my opinion that they are a scam and ripoff. Once they get your money, it's gone. Even if you are completely dissatisfied with their service.
I urge people to read the complaints file against them on Ripoffreport.com. Go to www.ripoffreport.com and search for "Smart Certify."
It has now been over a week since the call with Ms. Miller. I have still yet to receive any response from the previous e-mails sent to Ms. Miller or any phone calls (as I was supposed to be contacted back). On August 25, 2004, I mailed a letter to the headquarters of SmartCertify (SkillSoft Corporation) in New Hampshire. It is my hopes that maybe those at corporate headquarters do not know what is really going on with their division of SmartCertify.
On August 27, 2004 at 3:11 P.M., I received an e-mail from someone named Marilyn Inzer. The e-mail ending has information that she is from the "Accounting Department." The e-mail basically stated that I needed to contact her in regards to my account. The e-mail further stated that it was important. I replied to her e-mail the same as I did the past few. I notified her that I had written up a report on my investigation of Smart Certify and if she wished to view it, she could. I have her the address for this page. I also notified her that she may post a rebuttal if she wished.
To date I have not received a response to the "important" matter. One odd issue was today I received the following e-mail:
"You have been subscribed to domestic-1 with the email addressI traced the domain of "find-computer-training.net" to Smart Certify. It is one of the many domains they have for their website. I never went to any of their websites and signed up for any mailing list. I did unsubscribe. This incident makes me wonder if they just send out e-mails to people like this and hope people don't unsubscribe? Or maybe they use the old tactic of looking at all the "unsubscribe" people as "live" e-mail accounts. I paint this grim picture because the incident makes no sense and I do not trust this company whatsoever.
I received a response on September 8, 2004 in regards to my letter addressed on August 25, 2004. The response stated the following:
"Re: Letter dated August 26, 2004This letter seems to me as if it is a canned response. None of my issues were addressed or even acknowledged (except that my letter was received). Unless I receive any further responses to my letter, this letter is evident that the parent company (SkillSoft) of Smart Certify has no intentions of resolving the matter or even responding to it. My judgment may seem premature but I have been trying to get this matter resolved for almost four months. For almost four months my responses have been ignored and the only reply has been quoting of their contract.
It has been a long ordeal to get such a simple matter resolved. Since the posting in September of 2004, I have contacted Mr. Porto personally via his phone line at SkillSoft. The first call resulted in Smart Certify finally nullifying my contract.
I then requested a refund of my $200.00. I was refused the refund by Mr. Jason Shields. I followed up by sending Mr. Porto a letter. I did not receive a response. I finally called Mr. Porto and he stated he would contact Smart Certify in regards to the matter. About a couple hours or so later, I received a call from Ms. Jennifer Rohrbough. I requested a refund and she stated I would not get one.
I asked why. Her first statement was because I was sent some CDs. The $200.00 was considered payment for the CDs. I explained to her that I did not know anything about getting any CDs nor did I ever receive them. She stated then that they could be downloaded from their website and support could send me the link. I reiterated to her that I did not want anything SmartCertify has to offer. All I wanted was my money back. She then changed the excuse to me not getting my refund because they cancelled my contract in good faith and the $200.00 was for cancellation of the contract. Good faith?! They cancelled the contract because I threatened to sue them for making false claims against me to the Pinellas County DOJ (read below about how Mr. Jason Shields could not backup his false statements to the DOJ).
Ms. Rohrbough continued to use the excuse that the $200.00 was for the cancellation of the contract. According to the letter I received, the contract was cancelled because of "technical difficulty" with their product and no one was at fault. Not once in the letter did it state anything about a "cancellation fee Furthermore, by them keeping the $200.00, I consider them stealing from me. They provided me no service.
After letting Ms. Rohrbough know that I would possibly be starting a class action suit, I contacted Mr. Porto. I explained to Mr. Porto the situation. He stated that it was not up to him. They (Skillsoft) let SmartCertify handle their own affairs. I told him that was their problem. SmartCertify does not know what they are doing. I had explained to Mr. Porto in the last letter that as of the first mailing of the letter on August 25, 2004, there were six complaints against the SmartCertify division of Skillsoft with the Pinellas County DOJ. As of the date of the last letter written to Mr. Porto dated October 14, 2004, there were sixteen complaints against them. Another issue is the fact that according to the BBB (Better Business Bureau), in the past 36 months, there have been 139 complaints and 57 complaints within the passed 12 months.
When reading the BBB record, you should note and understand the wording. When the BBB states that a matter was "properly addressed", it does NOT mean that the person whom filed the complaint was satisfied with the result. A matter being "properly addressed" simply means that the company who had the complaint filed against them responded in a timely manner and stated their side of the story.
It seems as if Mr. Porto could care less about how SmartCertify is ripping people off. It also seems as if all Skillsoft cares about is taking people's money. I plan on doing the following in an attempt to resolve this matter:
Send a letter to the head personnel at SkillSoft.
Charles E. Morgan (President)
Jerald A. Nine (Exec. Vice President)
Colm Darcey (Exec. Vice President)
Thomas J. McDonald (CFO, Exec VP, Secretary)
107 NORTHEASTERN BLVD
NASHUA, NH 03062
It is my hopes that maybe if the high up people see what is going on they might care. I will let them know they have been listed on my website as well as that of ripoffreport.com. I also plan on filing a complaint with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and the State of Florida Attorney General's Office.
Once again, for those thinking of signing up with SmartCertify or any SkillSoft company, do not waste your time, money, and effort. It is my opinion that SkillSoft and their divisions are shady and are only out there to take people's money.
The last update I got was the forward of a letter from Mr. Jennifer Rohrbough, Executive Assistant of SmartCertify Direct. The letter was dated December 28, 2004. The letter stated that SmartCertify "...was not obligated to cancel the remaining payments..." of my contract but they done so "...in effort to amicably resolve Mr. Hillebran's contract." Isn't that nice? They cancelled a contract which they tried to rip me off with. She further stated that "Mr. Hillebran will NOT be receiving the down payment of $200.00 back."
She sure did make it a point to use all caps on the word "NOT." Do you think she was getting annoyed that I was persistent on requesting a refund? How does she think I and numerous others feel that we have been ripped off. Maybe if Mr. Rohrbough and the many others of SmartCertify would stop ripping people off, they would not have such issues.
Not only do they have a large number of complaints filed against them with the BBB and Pinellas County Department of Justice, but also on ripoffreport.com.
I will be sending one final letter to Mr. Rohrbough and Forefront direct notifying them that I will be persistent with warning others of their shady practices. As I have stated before, I do not personally recommend ANYONE sign up with SmartCertify, Forefront Direct or ANY alias domain I have listed at the top of this report.