Chances are your spam filter is overloaded with dubious types “congratulating” you on being listed in their allegedly prestigious new business directory — a common trap designed to con you into paying a bill for ending up in the directory. Tracking down the perpetrators of that kind of scam can be tricky, especially if they operate overseas, but the ACCC has successfuly prosecuted a Spanish company which bombarded small businesses with faux invoices and then aggressively pursued payments.
European City Guide S L, which traded in Australia as Industry and Commerce, has effectively been ordered to stop seeking payments from businesses which were duped into returning listings forms for what they thought was a free government-backed services, and then hit up for large fees over a number of years. ACCC deputy chair Peter Kell used the announcement of the outcome to remind small businesses to always be cynical about these kinds of offers:
“If a telephone call or an ‘invoice’ is received that comes from a publication you have never heard of, or that you don’t remember putting an entry in, don’t pay or give out your details until you have looked into the matter further.
Sensible advice. Our favourite part of the announcement is the extract from the judgement of Justice Moore in the case.
A charitable person would describe [European City Guide] ‘s conduct as an opportunistic exploitation of consumers. A less charitable person would probably use more robust language.