MEPs demand action on small business scams

Business directory mis-selling causes misery

Brussels, 6th November 2008 — The European Parliament’s petitions committee has demanded tighter national laws and more action from the European Commission to ensure small businesses are afforded greater protection from directory scams.

Conservative MEP Sir Robert Atkins has campaigned for a crackdown on rogue directories for many years, but the petitions committee decided to write a report on the issue after receiving over 400 petitions from aggrieved businesses.

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.

The parliamentary committee has today called for greater awareness amongst business owners of the potential scam, tighter national laws on unfair commercial practices and for the European Commission to ensure national laws already in place comply strictly with current European law.

Sir Robert said:

“Small businesses can ill-afford to fall victim to scammers at the best of times, but in the current climate these extortionate bills would send some over the edge.

“It is imperative we do all within our power to ensure businesses are aware of these scams, and to encourage national governments to crack down on rogue directories. The European City Guide has made many business-owners’ lives a misery and we will continue to act to shut it down for good.”

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