Attorney General Hardy Myers Warns Oregon Small Businesses And Non-Profit Organizations About Misleading "Yellow Page" Solicitations From Canada
DOJ files agreement with an online yellow page directory company, putting them out of business in Oregon for six months.
Attorney General Hardy Myers today warned Oregon small businesses and non-profit organizations about misleading telephone solicitations from boiler rooms in Canada and announced the filing of a settlement agreement with a Canadian Internet advertising group, stopping them from telemarketing in Oregon until June 14, 2008. This agreement, combined with a previous agreement to suspend telemarketing operations into the state, will by the end of the June moratorium, have blocked the company from soliciting business in Oregon for over a year.
Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) filed in Marion County Circuit Court is The OYP Group (OYP) of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, that uses a mail drop in Plattsburg, New York. The AVC admits no violation of law.
"Oregon businesses, charities and churches need to be constantly reminded of the many telephone scams originating in Canada," Myers said. "OYP is like other aggressive solicitors masquerading as legitimate companies selling "yellow page" advertising over the telephone, but in reality, they are often boiler room operations with little regard for accuracy or honesty."
Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) investigators received 16 complaints from Oregon businesses and charities against OYP alleging that the company misled them during a sales pitch over the telephone. Complainants said they were told the call was from the "yellow pages," and the caller either wanted to confirm existing listings or wanted to verify some information such as the type of business and its address all for free. Both types of calls were followed with bills for Internet listing services and then aggressive collection calls seeking payment for services never agreed to. The company played back taped telephone conversations that made it sound like the victims actually ordered the service when the opposite was true, according to the victims.
"Although the company has signed a settlement agreement, our investigators are watching it carefully because many telephone operations originating in Canada promise everything and do little, if anything, to change the way they operate," Myers explained.
As part of the AVC, OYP agreed to refrain from telemarketing in Oregon for six months, change the ways in which it operates, provide DOJ its business and sales plans and refund and/or cancel billings of any Oregon customers alleging they were misled. The company agreed to pay $4,000 to the DOJ Consumer Protection and Education Fund. DOJ will suspend $3,000 upon receiving payment of the first $1,000 and proof that full refunds were made on all requests for the next 12 months. If the complaints are not resolved, a judgment will be filed for the remaining $3,000 plus $1,000 attorney fees.
Many of these "yellow pages" schemes have come about because the recognizable branding of "yellow pages" and the internationally-known logo of cartoon-like fingers walking through the telephone directory were never copyrighted.
Myers added that many yellow pages operations, including those operating out of Canada, are making millions on fraudulent sales to small businesses and non-profits each year. DOJ has investigated 17 "yellow pages" schemes over the last eight years, resulting in five AVCs and warnings about operating in Oregon.
Consumers wanting information about phony "yellow page" operations may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. DOJ is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org