Conservatives call for answers on directory scams

Strasbourg, 20th May 2008 — This week Conservative MEPs demanded answers from EU Member States on the actions they are taking to prevent thousands of small businesses and professionals from becoming victims of rogue directory companies.

The European City Guide and similar outfits advertise “free of charge” entries into business catalogues and then trick interested businesses into signing long-term agreements which foresee annual fees amounting to thousands of pounds. The scam forms have onerous contract terms in very small print, which are overlooked by businesses convinced they are merely getting a free listing. Although there is no evidence that these fraudsters have taken anyone to court to recover their fees, many small businesses have succumbed to the pressure of threats and parted with substantial sums of money.

Conservative MEPs wanted to know why it is taking EU governments so long to crack down on the “European City Guides” operating in their territories and explore what further actions can be taken at a European level.

Sir Robert Atkins MEP, Conservative Spokesman on Petitions in the European Parliament said:

“This is a scam and we have received numerous petitions from aggrieved citizens about threats and blackmail. Action must be taken to stop it.”

Malcolm Harbour MEP, Conservative Spokesman on Internal Market and Consumer Protection in the European Parliament said:

“Small Businesses are the prime victims of these scams. It is unacceptable that European fair trading authorities cannot work together to deal with the perpetrators. How can small companies keep up their enthusiasm for a single market while this problem carries on?”

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