For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: July 16, 2007
Wasden Stops Another “Yellow Pages” Scam
(Boise) – Ten Idaho businesses that received bills for “Internet Yellow Pages” listings they believed they did not order will benefit under terms of a legal settlement with Thompson Hill Publishing of Montreal, Quebec, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. Without admitting any liability or wrongdoing, Thompson Hill also agreed to cancel the outstanding accounts of the ten Idaho business owners who received invoices from Thompson Hill, but who disputed ever purchasing or approving the listings.
In solicitations for Internet directory listings sent to consumers, Thompson Hill represented that it is located in Auburn, Maine, and that it is “The Official Yellow Pages.” Consumers who filed complaints with the Attorney General reported that, during telephone solicitations, Thompson Hill implied that it had a prior business relationship with the consumers and misrepresented itself as the consumers’ local “yellow page directory.” Consumers subsequently received an invoice from Thompson Hill for up to $480. According to consumers, if they did not pay the bill, Thompson Hill turned the debt over to a collection agency.
“You are not required to pay for a listing that you did not order,” Attorney General Wasden said. “If you receive a bill for such a service, you should contact the company and explain that you did not approve a directory listing. If the company cannot demonstrate that you ordered the listing, you should file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division.”
In addition to canceling the ten disputed business accounts, Thompson Hill must refund any money that the business owners paid in response to receiving an invoice or collection notice. If Thompson Hill continues operating in Idaho, it must register to telemarket, register to do business with the Secretary of State, and include its address and a toll–free customer service telephone number on all invoices and ads it sends to Idaho consumers.
A copy of the directory listing that Thompson Hill claims the consumer purchased must be provided with the invoice, and Thompson Hill must explain on its invoices that the consumer can dispute the invoice’s validity by asking to review the recording of the consumer’s phone conversation with Thompson Hill. If the company cannot produce the original recording, Thompson Hill must cancel the disputed invoice.
“We’ve been involved in several cases concerning deceptive billing or selling practices by companies calling themselves ‘the yellow pages,’” Wasden added. “Consumers often assume that a business calling itself ‘the yellow pages’ is connected with a regional telephone company or a local directory service. That is often not the case. The term ‘yellow pages’ is not a trademark. Anyone can use it, and scammers often do. Business owners can protect themselves by checking into yellow pages solicitations before they sign up. If you want to advertise in your local directory, call the local directory to verify that you are listing with them.”
Thompson Hill also agreed to pay the Attorney General $2,685.91 in civil penalties and attorney fees. Additionally, the settlement requires the company to respond within 30 days to all future consumer complaints that it receives from Idaho consumers, the Attorney General, or the Better Business Bureau.
The Idaho Consumer Protection Act prohibits a seller from sending a solicitation to consumers that deceptively resembles a bill or invoice. If you receive an invoice for a directory listing, examine the document for disclosures indicating that it is an advertisement or a solicitation.
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