Controversial mummy blogger Constance Hall has suffered a loss in court after she was ordered to pay website developers $15,000 for breaching a contract over her now-defunct website.
The 39-year-old self-professed “Queen” has been found liable for failing to produce enough content to help make her website, Queens of Constance, financially successful after it was developed by Annabel and Jody Olward.
The website was launched shortly after Ms Hall posted a blog titled “Parent Sex” to social media, which quickly went viral and made her a household name in 2016.
The Olwards built the website in February 2016 through their design firm Super Minimal and took Constance to court claiming she breached the terms of their agreement. They claim Constance cost them more than $100,000 in potential revenue.
Ms Hall faced the District Court of Western Australia, where it was told the mother-of-seven was required to produce regular content for the website in the hopes of maximising ad revenue.
However, the pair claimed Ms Hall failed to keep up to their deal and create just three blog articles per week.
The Olwards approached Ms Hall with a website proposal, where they offered to develop and “maintain, monitor and promote” it for free in exchange for half the advertising revenue.
“The plaintiffs were, by their willingness to start work on developing a concept and creating a website before any final agreement was reached, also acutely aware of how critical time was,” the District Court judgment reads.
“They appreciated that the prospective source of revenue from advertisers could only be secured if Constance was attracting ‘clicks’ on her blogging pages, thereby generating a potential source of income. From their perspective they were marketing and selling ’Constance’.”
Ms Hall and the Olwards came to the agreement that the best way to capitalise on Ms Hall’s “short spotlight of fame was to create, build and maintain” a website which could be monetised, District Court Judge Christopher Stevenson’s judgment read.
During their discussions with Ms Hall, it was agreed Super Minimal would design and establish the website for her and maintain it for a 12-month period.
This included negotiating and obtaining advertisers from different affiliate marketing groups and dealing with advertisers.
At trial, Annabel Olward said Ms Hall “agreed verbally that it would be a 50/50 split” and would only be remunerated when the website made a profit.
“We weren't going to be paid anything to make the website and we were going to put all our effort into it and then be paid by the money it made through advertising – that’s how we’d get paid for the work on the website,” Annabel said at the trial.
Jody Olward described at trial a “full-time effort” in building the website, which involved the branding, design, development and launch in a period of about four weeks, which she said was a “phenomenal amount of work”.
In an email tendered to the court, the hours contributed during five weeks before the launch of the website cost the Oswalds $42,350.
The sisters claimed Ms Hall had agreed to the proposal and had signed a contract, but at trial the mummy blogger said she never agreed to provide a set number of articles for the website.
Ms Hall argued she provided other content and the Olwards had the responsibility of generating marketing revenue.
She told the court she believed the website would generate an audience and it would help her social media following expand.
By the end of 2016, her following had grown from 250,000 to in excess of 1 million.
However, the Olwards claimed the ad revenue would only be driven by traffic to the website, which would be hindered without any new content.
In his judgment handed down in April, Judge Stevenson found there was an implication Ms Hall would provide original content up to three times per week to the Olwards, who would put it on the website.
He also found Ms Hall orally agreed to take part in a forum on the website and interact with fans.
“What the parties actually agreed between themselves is, in some critical respects, in issue in these proceedings notwithstanding the execution of a written agreement some months later bearing the handwritten date 25 April 2016,” Judge Stevenson wrote in the judgment.
While the site performed well following the launch, as Ms Hall was creating three articles a week, it took less than a month for the quantity to drop.
The sisters and Ms Hall ceased their business just a year later in February 2017.
Judge Stevenson said neither the Orwalds or Ms Hall fully understood the magnitude of what was required of them in the commercial venture,
“There is a world of difference between ad hoc blogging on Facebook at a time of one’s own choosing and convenience, and the harsh reality of having to write regular posts, motivated by financial gain, for publication on a website in order to maintain traffic to the website,” the judge said.
“This can be seen by the inability of the defendant to create original content for publication on the website after a short period of time (even allowing in part it may have been because of the defendant’s other business interests).”
As a result of Ms Hall refusing to produce regular blogs, the Judge found the Orwald sisters experienced an “increasing inability to generate appropriate and sufficient advertising” revenue.
He found the profitability of the website was directly linked to content created by Ms Hall and found she attempted to mask her failure to comply.
Judge Stevenson ordered Ms Hall pay the Olwards $15,000 in damages.
“I am satisfied the defendant breached this implied contractual obligation and it was causative of a loss of opportunity for the plaintiffs to derive 50 per cent of the revenue which the website could reasonably have been expected to generate in the initial 12-month contract period,” he said.
During the trial, it was agreed between the parties Ms Hall would be paid $5250 in a counterclaim but the details are unknown.
“Finally, I would add that the blog which led to this litigation was not tendered in evidence (others were) and therefore I have been spared the time of having to read it,” the judge said.
“Whether this is a missed opportunity I will never know.”