BBB Warns About Misleading Online Directory Publishers

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BBB advises businesses to read fine print on online directory offers to avoid unexpected invoices.

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Businesses should examine all directory billings carefully and remember that the term yellow pages and the symbol of fingers walking can be used by any directory publishers.

A lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General in Dallas County District Court in July, 2014, against two online directory publishers in Dallas, TX, and Carrollton, TX, says the businesses were "aware of the confusion that their mailers are causing in the marketplace", due in part to the hundreds of complaints forwarded by BBB to the publishers. The lawsuit also notes that BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas® wrote to one publisher about the pattern of complaints and misleading use of the word "free." However, the business "continued this business model."

Complaints to BBB about the directory publishers state the mailings say "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 $329.00 semi-annually.

“BBB warns businesses to watch out for misleading offers from directory publishers,” said Jeannette Kopko, spokesperson for BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas. “Businesses should examine all directory billings carefully and remember that the term yellow pages and the symbol of fingers walking can be used by any directory publisher.”

A business in La Jolla, CA, complained about one publisher, “This company sent a misleading card in the mail asking for verification of information on their online listing for my business. However, there was no delineation of a contract, service information, or fee structures. … When I tried contacting them, they would not provide me with a contract and refused to stop the advertising, claiming that I owed them $361.90 that was going to get forwarded to a collections agency.”

Both business directory publishers sued by the Texas Attorney General have BBB ratings of F, due the hundreds of complaints many of which are unanswered or unresolved.

In November, 2014, Dallas BBB warned that one publisher’s mailing disclosed the $329.00 semi-annual fee for "an owner verified listing" only in fine print on the back of the offer.

For more details, see BBB’s alert at go.bbb.org/topaz-promotions.

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.
  • Look up the directory publisher. Do an Internet search for information about the publisher, and check with BBB at bbb.org/search.

CASE NO: DC-15-07865
COURT: District Court, Dallas County, 68th Judicial District

About BBB - For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 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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