In a recent case, Adepto Publications, its sole director, Mitchell, and its office manager, McKay, were ordered to pay substantial financial penalties for engaging in conduct known as “blowing”.
What is blowing?
It is the practice of demanding payment from businesses for advertisements which the business proprietors were tricked into believing they had requested.
Apparently there is some expert Blowing going on out there, if the income of Adepto is anything to go by.
Adepto sold advertising space in The National Emergency Relief Guide, The Underprivileged Children’s Guide and The Volunteer Organisations Guide.
Adepto had set up a brilliantly simple system:
- Step 1 – The “Cleansing Call”. Adepto employees would phone a business (which had advertised in a publication and was a potential target) to obtain details of the business including its name, address, telephone number and any other details that appeared in the advertisement.
- Step 2 – The “Sales Call”. Adepto would phone the target business and assert untruthfully that the business had previously agreed to place an advertisement in one of the Guides.
- Step 3 – The “Checking Call”. An Adepto representative would phone to confirm the advertisement, cost and how payment was to be made.
- Step 4 – Publication and Demands. Adepto would publish the advertisement in one of the Guides, then send a copy of the publication to the target business with an invoice. Many would simply pay up, assuming they’d agreed to run the ad.
Blowing is illegal and the ACCC will hunt you down, mmmkay. Adepto was fined $500,000 and, because of the extent of their involvement in the conduct, Mitchell was fined $150,000 and McKay $100,000.
It’s an old scam, but in this case an expensive one.