PORTLAND, Maine – An Indian-based tech support company on Thursday denied accusations by the Washington state attorney general that it scammed consumers and said it remains interested in creating jobs in the U.S. after a partnership unraveled in Maine.
The company, iYogi, made a splash when it looked to the U.S. to create up to 300 jobs in partnership with a call centre operator in Maine. The July announcement was big enough news that Gov. Paul LePage attended the event in Lewiston.
But it didn’t take long for the deal to unravel.
Argo Marketing terminated the contract with iYogi in October and filed a lawsuit for nonpayment this month. Only 30 people were hired in Lewiston.
“In business sometimes it’s better to stop doing a certain contract relatively quickly before you keep going down a road that could lead to disaster,” Argo CEO Jason Levesque said Thursday.
On Wednesday, a lawsuit in Washington state accused iYogi of scamming customers into buying software and services they didn’t need. The attorney general said hundreds if not thousands of people had fallen for the scams in that state.
Vishal Dhar, iYogi’s president and co-founder, defended his company on Thursday, saying accusations that iYogi scammed consumers were “false and baseless.”
He described the company’s Maine venture as important for delivering “baseline metrics” and said the company aims to relaunch U.S. operations in the new year. “We chose Maine for its talent, and it still remains our first choice,” he said in a statement.
The company bills itself as the world’s largest independent technical support provider. With 5,000 workers in India, iYogi provides technical support via telephone and electronic communication — plus on-site help through 1,500 contract workers — for consumers who sign contracts with the company, the company said.
The lawsuit in Washington alleged deceptive business practices under the state Consumer Protection Act and Computer Spyware Statute.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said iYogi representatives routinely took remote control of the computers of people who sought help, causing ominous warnings to flash on the screen and then encouraging them to pay for additional services.
The call centre workers in Lewiston, Maine, weren’t involved in any of the questionable activities that were alleged in Washington state, Levesque said. In Lewiston, the workers took incoming calls from consumers interested in iYogi’s services and routed those calls to India, he said.
Saying he was “deceived,” Levesque accused iYogi of paying only about half of what it was owed. A lawsuit in New York aims to collect the remainder, about $72,000.
He said the company is not interested in further partnerships with iYogi.
“We believe we made the right decision in exiting the contract instead of plowing along and hiring lots of individuals for a contract that might not have had the longevity that we hoped for and that we were led to believe,” he said.
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