Alert: Business should question value of on-line Directories
The BBB* has recently received information from multiple business organizations including Government agencies in the Saskatchewan marketplace relating to online directory services. The most egregious operation is branded as “Yellow-Pages” with the traditional walking fingers and as Yellow-Pages-Saskatchewan.net. The directory service is apparently owned and operated by Yellow Holding Ltd. allegedly based in Rochester New York, but the actual existence of offices and employees has not been confirmed. The process is clearly deceptive and designed to trap recipients into signing an information verification form as the solicitation is clearly stamped in large bold type set as “This is not a Bill” right in the middle of the page just above the signature area. Beneath the signature area in fine print is the expressed commitment that will obligate anyone who signs to confirm the listing information to a 2 year financial commitment of $1,129 annually, and an automatic renewal if written notice of cancellation is not provided 90 days prior to the annual expiry date.
The BBB servicing the Rochester area has developed a Business Review on Yellow Holding Ltd. warning consumers that the business is operating with deceptive business practices, and has challenged the business on its processes. All inquiries have gone unanswered.
Similar on-line directory services are also being offered by somewhat more legitimate service providers who may be located anywhere in the world. The BBB wants to caution all businesses, government agencies, and not for profit organizations before they commit to confirming any listing information that the offer is in fact free. That means read the fine print, and do a little digging. Any on-line directory service should be able to provide you as the business with some substantiation of value such as website traffic, expected impression counts for your specific directory listing, and similar data. Small and large business organizations alike typically know their market service area, and who their current and prospective customers are. Will those customers actually search out the online directory that is soliciting your business?
Should you be solicited for such listings, or inadvertently caught in a costly relationship with an on-line directory service that you believe you had not committed to, BBB recommends the following steps:
1. Consult with internal or external legal counsel as to the appropriate actions to take.
2. Immediately issue a written request for cancellation of the on-line directory service.
3. If you have concerns about any potential impact on your credit rating you might choose to try and negotiate a discounted billable amount.
4. Centralize decision-making and control with respect to any inquiry around marketing and advertising directory opportunities whether they are directory listings or pure advertising.
5. Read the fine print in any document that any employee is being asked to sign.
6. Establish a culture within your organization that is grounded in attending to details and invest in training and educating your work force about attending to detail and reading fine print.
7. If you doubt the legitimacy of solicitations for on-line directory listings report your concerns to Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Competition Bureau, and BBB.
Better Business Bureau of Saskatchewan, Inc. is a non-profit organization funded by accredited businesses throughout the province.
“The BBB… developing, encouraging and promoting ethical business practices in the marketplace.”