MEP Warns Scots Businesses: "Don't Sign, Don't Get Caught Out"

05 August 2011
SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has repeated a warning to Scots urging them to be aware of scammers currently targeting Scottish businesses.
One scam known as the "European City Guide" has been ongoing for several years now, but after a lull has reemerged with a vengeance.

The scam typically involves small businesses being tricked into signing up to contracts for inclusion in worthless or even non-existent "city guides" and thereby incurring bills of hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds in inflated advertising costs. The fraudsters then threaten legal action in the expectation that some of their victims will pay up in an attempt to make them go away. As the police draw near they simply collapse their companies in one location only to relocate to another.

Alyn has seen many cases of Scots businesses being caught out over the years and, despite repeated warnings and increasing political activity to try and halt the scam, there are still regular complaints as more Scottish companies get caught out.

After a European Parliament investigation into the scam in 2008, the European Commission was tasked with the job of halting the operations of these scammers. As part of that effort, the Commission last week launched an online database which provides an overview of the legal data that exists on unfair commercial practice, against which EU law is fighting with its own common base of rules to protect EU consumers' rights.

Alyn said:

"The "European City Guide" scam has been plaguing Scots, and other EU businesses for years now but I still see too many companies being caught out. Time and time again I receive emails and letters from folk who have been taken in by these scammers, who write to me subsequently wondering what they can do to stop the barrage of correspondence threatening legal action if they don't pay up.

"I am pleased to see the Commission taking steps to counter these types of scams, but for those who have already been caught out, it is too little, too late. That being said, I cannot criticise any efforts being made to avoid even more people having to deal with the stress of being hooked by this scam, so this online database will help Scots consumers in the long run.
 
"The best advice remains to avoid being caught out at all, so for the sake of one minute, run a quick internet search of the name of the company and if there are any mentions of scams then be very, very careful what you sign. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

The European Parliament Petitions Committee paper is available at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/cm/744/744867/744867en.pdf.

The European Commission database on unfair commercial practices is available at https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/ucp/public/index.cfm?event=public.home.show&CFID=58900996&CFTOKEN=51473610&jsessionid=a403fd2ed9c169435a426334d4d1886f1df2TR