Nfld. & Labrador

Canadians feel ripped off by firm aided via Kickstarter

More than 150 Canadians paid money through the popular Kickstarter crowdfunding website to an American company called Windowfarms that hasn't delivered what they bought.

153 people paid for Windowfarms product they never received

Shannon Fraser of Urchin Art Supply in St. John's paid $300 to Windowfarms but says she has yet to receive anything for her money. (Vik Adhopia/CBC)

Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter have become a popular way for artists and entrepreneurs to raise money, but some Canadians who backed an American company through Kickstarter say they've been ripped off.

New York-based Kickstarter succeeded in launching a unique hydroponic growing system called Windowfarms that became one of its most popular projects.

More than 1,500 people across the globe pre-ordered Windowfarms units, giving the U.S. company more than $250,000 in start-up money.

The units started shipping within the United States last fall, but people outside the country are still waiting.

'One of the comments from one of the Canadians online is it's really hard to make Canadians angry, and you've made Canadians angry.'—Shannon Fraser

Shannon Fraser, who runs Urchin Art Supply in St. John's, says she paid $300 to Windowfarms, but has yet to see anything for it.

Fraser says the company stopped responding to her inquiries in January.

"One of the comments from one of the Canadians online is it's really hard to make Canadians angry, and you've made Canadians angry," Fraser told CBC News.

"While we're a small group, it speaks to what the ethics of the larger project are. And that's too bad, and that's why there's so much disappointment."

Complaints to Kickstarter unsuccessful

Fraser's complaints to Kickstarter have also gone nowhere.

Kickstarter has taken credit for helping launch successful hi-tech gadgets, an Oscar-nominated film and celebrated social causes.

But Kickstarter insists it's just a platform for start-up projects, and not responsible if companies such as Windowfarms don't deliver.

Britta Riley, the Brooklyn artist who launched Windowfarms, is now a speaker with the influential TED Talks series.

In a written statement, Riley acknowledged there are 153 Canadians who have yet to receive their order. While she wrote, "[their] orders keep me up at night" and that she's still working on fulfilling her company's commitment, she could not offer a delivery timeline.

Vancouver resident also lost money

Vanessa Lowe, who lives in Vancouver and has been watching Riley's popularity in the U.S., also lost money on Windowfarms.

"I get a little bit frustrated that she has been able to use Windowfarms and Kickstarter to start a career for herself," Lowe said.

With 153 backers in Canada alone, Windowfarms could owe several thousand dollars to people outside the U.S.

Lowe doesn't think she'll see her money again.