The Competition Bureau announced on July 28, 2011 that it had filed an action against five companies (Yellow Business Marketing Ltd. in Canada; Yellow Publishing Ltd. and Yellow Data Services Ltd. in the UK; Yellow Page Marketing B.V. in the Netherlands, and Backoffice Support SL in Spain) and three individuals (Brandon Marsh, manager of Yellow Business Marketing Ltd. and Jan Marks and Steve Green, Spanish residents) with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in connection with a deceptive marketing scheme targeting businesses in Canada.
"We are committed to cracking down on fraud that victimizes consumers and businesses. Significantly, the action we are taking today underscores the importance of working with our international partners to frustrate these types of multi-jurisdictional scams." said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition.
Working closely with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Bureau found, through an international investigation, that the accused were faxing one-page forms that displayed a logo which closely resembled the recognizable Yellow Pages Group (YPG) trademark to businesses who thought the communication was from the well-known YPG. The forms created the impression that they would be used to update the business’ information on an online directory listing but the fine print stated that completing the form committed the business to a two-year contract at an annual cost of $1,428 for the listing. Any businesses refusing to pay were pursued with collection actions. The business scheme, operating since January 2010, was found to be in violation of the false or misleading and deceptive practices provisions of the Competition Act.
David Vladeck, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection for the FTC, commented "We applaud our colleagues in Canada for leading this international effort and also for providing support in our investigation." The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also sought court action against two of the five companies sued by the Bureau which resulted in penalties of A$2.7 million.
The Bureau is seeking, among other things, administrative monetary penalties totalling $11,550,000 CAD, the publication of corrective notices, and restitution for the victims of the scheme.