Indiegogo moves on from Healbe PR disaster by locking a woman out of her account when she asked for a refund

By James Robinson , written on April 18, 2014

From The News Desk

For Moscow-based Healbe the hard part of its controversial Indiegogo campaign for a scientifically impossible, calorie counting activity tracker is over. It gets to walk off into the sunset with $1m and no actionable legal risk, even if it makes no attempt to go into production.

For Indiegogo, picking up the pieces from a bruising PR-disaster -- silently deleting its anti-fraud promises and so on -- will be a lot harder.

Not that the company is trying particularly hard to make amends. One longtime Indiegogo supporter has contacted Pando claiming that the company has locked her out of her account after she requested a refund of her Healbe contribution directly from her bank.

Karen Tozzi -- who described herself as “quite active” on Indiegogo in the past -- told Pando that at the time she backed the Healbe GoBe campaign, she did feel it was too good to be true. “But at that point, I felt it was worth a shot. However... things just seemed to get more sketchy, and their reactions [were] quite different from other campaigns I have been involved with."

The day before the Healbe GoBe campaign ended, CEO Artem Shipitsyn told a Russian website that Healbe had refunded between $15,000 and $20,000, equivalent to “less than three percent” of its total haul. The public refund requests have continued to stream in over the past five days, with over a dozen new demands coming in still days after the campaign is over.

While Healbe has apparently been refunding PayPal payments promptly, Tozzi used her own debit card to support the campaign. The only means available to her to get her refund from Healbe was to email them the Russian company her bank account details for a direct credit, which she said didn’t seem sensible given that she’d lost faith in their integrity and honesty.

Her bank, Citibank, processed her refund but some days later Tozzi received an email from Indiegogo asking her to contact her bank and tell them that the initial charges were correct. She responded that she had authorized the refund. There was no response. Shortly after this she discovered that she’d been locked out of her Indiegogo account. Close to 24 hours later, the company has still not responded to her inquiries about why she was shut out.

Indiegogo did not respond to a request for comment this afternoon about whether this was the standard operating procedure in cases where users experienced backer’s remorse. Or whether it was just a plain old -- but very curiously timed -- administrative error.

We'll update this post if Indiegogo responds to its -- now former -- user and/or reactivates her account.

Update: A few hours after this story was published, Indiegogo unlocked Tozzi's account. They still have no explained the reason for the suspension, or the reason for lifting it.


[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]