Most businesses are interested in driving more traffic to their web site. And most know that fostering quality inbound links will help achieve this – and that listing in reputable on-line directories is a great place to start. Many on-line directories are of course free, but some of the better ones do charge an annual fee – for example, Yahoo! Directories is probably the best of them at US$299 per year. So listing for free in a plausible looking international directory like this one with a link back to your site seems a no brainer.
These were certainly my first thoughts when ElevateCA received an e-mail yesterday inviting us to list for free in the 2010/2011 Netherlands based World Business Guide.
Just an easy one-page form to fax back with details of your business – and bingo, you’re listed! No credit card number required.
Sounds great so far.
Then I thought I’d inspect the few lines of very small fine print at the bottom of the page. These were rather difficult to read because of their size, the fact that the font was in dark blue – and because it was all in caps.
Here’s the key sentence – buried within the fine print:
“I hereby order a subscription to the World Business Guide. I will have an insertion into its database for three years. The price per year is Euro 995”.
And cunning, with the word “Euro” at the end of one line and the “995” at the beginning of the next – and not a currency symbol ($, € etc) in sight, so a quick scan of the text would leave you relaxed that there was no mention of money anywhere.
So listing in the World Business Guide is indeed free – as stated. But the fine print includes a three year subscription totalling €2,985 – or something like NZ$6,000!
A bit of scratching beneath the surface reveals that this company is based in Romania – not the Netherlands as stated on their website. And that they are closely affiliated with an aggressive debt collection company whose worldwide business is bullying those in dispute with the World Business Guide.
I suspect that in New Zealand this promotion would be considered misleading enough to make the contract avoidable. But I’m also guessing that a significant number of businesses around the world would conclude that they had indeed entered into a binding contract – and would simply pay up to make the problem go away.
Having a spare five minutes last night, I amended the fine print on the form to remove the offending paragraph. The scammers at World Business Guide made this nice and easy for me by not locking the pdf form for editing.
I replaced the offending words with these:
“By inserting this valuable listing from ElevateCA Limited into the World Business Guide, you agree that you will immediately pay ElevateCA Limited the sum of 3000 Euros in consideration.”
Then with my new wording hidden away in place of the old, I sent the form back to the World Business Guide.
Of course I will never be able to collect a payment of €3,000 from the World Business Guide. But I will have some fun with their debt collectors when they come calling.
I’ll keep you posted right here.
Fraser Hurrell is one of three directors of Elevate CA Limited, Chartered Accountants & Business Advisors in Whangarei, New Zealand.
You Might Also Enjoy Reading
- Hiring a Xero-Savvy Accountant - 20th February, 2017
- Christmas Break - Office Reopening 11 January 2016 - 11th December, 2015
- Returning Kiwis with Australian Rental Properties - 26th May, 2015
- Payments for hurt and humiliation – asymmetric tax treatment - 24th May, 2015
- Valuation of your Business - 23rd May, 2015