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Better Business Bureau ®
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Northeast California
Small Businesses Solicited at a Costly Price
August 20, 2014

 

Sacramento, Calif. – Businesses beware: solicited offers to renew a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) are once more making their way into the mailboxes of business owners. The offers inform a business that their FBN will soon expire, and that to renew they need to return the attached paperwork and pay a fee. However, businesses have complained that the offers are misleading - giving them the impression the offer is from a local government agency. According to complaints, business owners have received similar offers from Corporate Records Service, California StateCorporations, and California Business Compliance Agency.

In particular, BBB received 15 complaints about Compliance Filings, Inc. Businesses complain that they are misled by the companies solicitation, and end up paying a $125 fee to file - a fee that is 2-3 times more than what some local counties charge. Although the company responded to most complaints by issuing refunds, they have typically kept a portion of the refund for a processing fee, or fees they claim to have paid to a government agency on the businesses behalf. One complainant, a business owner in San Francisco, Calif., said, “It pains me to know that this fraudulent company is targeting small business owners, who are at the very core of our economy.”

Expiration NoticeThese solicitations are legal to send, but they must include very specific disclaimers. Title 39, U.S. Code, Section 3001, requires that one be found on the outside cover or envelope. It also requires that another be placed on the front and back of every page of the solicitation - with conditions prescribed by the U.S. Postal Service. According to the USPIS website, the solicitation must be conspicuously placed in boldface capital letters and in 30 point-font. Upon review of the most recent documented solicitation BBB received, sent by Compliance Filings, Inc., the disclaimer was not conspicuously placed and the font was not up to size. When BBB contacted the company about their unresolved complaints and advised that they might be in violation of guidelines prescribed by the USPIS, Compliance Filings, Inc. did not respond. Due to their volume complaints, one BBB considered to be of a serious nature, and failure to answer all, the company currently has an ‘F’ rating.

Similar offers have caused controversy in the past, resulting in legal action by local governments. In 2011, the Riverside County District Attorney’s office charged a County resident with two felonies after sending similar solicited offers with a counterfeit government seal. Similarly, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) warns against being misled by similar solicitations, and on their website states, “Don't be victimized by con artists who try to get your company to order goods or services by mailing you solicitations designed to look like invoices.”

Tips for Small Businesses:

  • Do Your Research. Prior to making payment for any service, do your research. Visit bbb.org for information on scams, bad businesses, and better business practices. Research any addresses or phone numbers from companies requesting payments for any service.
  • Pay With a Credit Card. When possible, make payments with a credit card. Using a credit card can protect your payment. According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, under certain circumstances you have the right to cancel a payment within 60 days.
  • Deal With Local Government Directly. When renewing your FBN, deal with your local government directly. Using a third-party vendor can result in overpayment.
  • BBB Code of Advertising. BBB promotes truth in advertising by contacting advertisers whose claims conflict with the BBB Code of Advertising. This includes, but is not limited to, advertisements which are untrue, misleading, deceptive, or insincere. If you believe a business has failed to uphold their advertising claims, visit bbb.org to file a complaint.