The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday announced it stopped National Business Advertising, Your Yellow Pages and OnlineYellowPagesToday.com from charging victims for unwanted listings in online “yellow page” directories.
The agency also announced a default judgement awarded in a November 2013 case. In that matter, a federal judge entered a $15.6 million judgement against Online Public Yellow Pages and banned the company from the directory business.
Federal judges in Florida temporarily halted and froze the assets of two operations, while a federal judge in Washington state did the same for the third operation.
The government is seeking to permanently stop the companies’ alleged illegal practices and make them refund victims’ money.
All four companies were found to have allegedly sent deceptive invoices to small businesses throughout the United States for unordered business directory listings.
In the event that a business disputed the invoices, the companies would allegedly use a variety of collection tactics, such as playing audio recordings that purportedly proved that the businesses’ employees authorized the business directory listings.
However, the recordings reportedly sounded as if they were doctored or merely reflected that an employee had confirmed or verified the business’s contact information in a previous telephone call without agreeing to any services.
According to the FTC, many consumers paid the companies in order to avoid potentially damaging collection actions and to end harassment.
In the case of National Business Advertising, the FTC charges the company pretended to be debt collection companies, such as TransUnion Credit Bureau, Regional Debt Recovery and RDR Collections Inc., in order to get consumers to pay in amounts ranging from $200 to more than $1,500.
Your Yellow Pages allegedly collected between $400 and more than $1,800 by cold-calling small businesses or non-profits and falsely claimed that the consumers owed them money for the second year of a two-year contract.
According to the FTC complaint, OnlineYellowPagesToday.com typically contacted consumers under the guise of confirming contact information in a directory. The company then allegedly billed consumers $479.95 or more, using the walking fingers image often associated with local yellow page directories on invoices.
Back in November 2013, Online Public Yellow Pages was charged with allegedly calling consumers about existing yellow pages listings or cancellation requests, but then billed them $499 or more for unwanted new listings, and often bullied consumers into paying by threatening to sue them or damage their credit ratings.
FTC and Florida Halt Internet ‘Yellow Pages’ Scammers [Federal Trade Commission]