BBB Alert to Businesses: Read Fine Print on Online Directory Offers

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Businesses complain about misleading offers for online "yellow pages" directory

Businesses may not be aware that the term ‘yellow pages’ and the symbol of ‘fingers walking’ are not exclusive to any directory. Check any 'yellow pages' offer carefully.

Businesses from California to New York are complaining to BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas® about misleading offers for online directory advertising. The offers are from an independent publisher using the words “Yellow Pages” in the name of the online directory along with a version of the well-known “fingers walking” symbol.

Complaints say the solicitations received by mail state "This is not a bill" and ask for verification of "your local listing information." But fine print on the back of the offer discloses that the listing will be online and the fee for "an owner verified listing" is hundreds of dollars semi-annually.

“The offers fail to disclose clearly that merely by responding to verify a listing, a business is incurring a substantial semi-annual payment due,” said Jeannette Kopko, spokesperson for BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas. “And businesses may not be aware that the term ‘yellow pages’ and the symbol of ‘fingers walking’ are not exclusive to any directory in which a business has advertised in the past. BBB advises to check any 'yellow pages' offer carefully.”

A business in Grandville, MI, complained: "I received a document in the mail in May with my information on it, asking me to confirm the address and such. I read the document carefully and it did not state anything about a fee. I received a bill in June for $329.00 for this service ... I did not agree to pay a fee."

Another complaint from San Diego, CA, stated: "This company contacted us with a form that read: THIS IS NOT A BILL and stated 'Verify Your Local Listing Information Below.' The form deceptively said that the information is 'Free with verified listing' and I filled out the information and sent it in to 'verify' ... my company received a bill for $327.80 for our listing on a completely unrelated, unheard of website that was never mentioned on the original form."

For more information, see: go.bbb.org/1GmAWbN

BBB offers these tips for businesses on "look like" yellow page directories:

  •      Be alert for "sound alike" names. The term "yellow pages" and the symbol of "fingers walking" are not copyrighted and any directory publisher may use them. Make sure you know who you're dealing with.
  •      Read carefully any directory offers. Look over the mailing carefully, including the back. Read the fine print which may disclose important terms and conditions.
  •      If it says “free” or “This is not a bill”, look further. There may be costs attached after all, under certain conditions.
  •      Is it a print or online directory? What’s the circulation? If it’s an online directory, go to the site and test it out for yourself. Is it a good advertising buy for your business?
  •      Look up the directory publisher. Do an Internet search for information about the publisher, and check with BBB at bbb.org.

About BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2013, people turned to BBB more than 132 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across North America, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas was founded in 1920 and serves 13 counties in Northeast Texas.

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Jeannette Kopko
@DallasBBB
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