Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive
Tuesday, June 5, 2001
CORNYN SEEKS TO REQUIRE BOGUS 'YELLOW PAGES' TO REIMBURSE BUSINESSES
Alleged Operations in California Targeted
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn has asked El Paso courts to issue an injunction against three firms in California that advertise as legitimate "Yellow Pages" but allegedly give their commercial customers almost nothing in return for their money. The petition, filed under the Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, requests restitution on behalf of businesses billed for services with little or no value. Several El Paso businesses filed complaints with the local Attorney General's office.
Two of the firms deceptively use addresses in the Dallas area - Yellow Pages 2000 Inc. and Yellow Pages Inc. These have no connection to the local, legitimate Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages, which has home offices in Dallas. The firms also use addresses in California, Florida, Indiana and Georgia. None of the three firms being sued are members of the legitimate, nonprofit Yellow Pages Publishers Association (YPPA).
"Although a 1994 investigation involving other state attorneys general called attention to this practice - and, we thought, stopped it - our latest investigation shows that some of these people are still in business and new ones are entering the arena all the time," said Attorney General Cornyn. "We need to put a stop to this deception because it appears Texas businesses are being defrauded on a broad scale."
The form of solicitation used by two of the firms features the instantly recognizable, but not trademarked, "walking fingers" logo. The third uses the familiar "open book" logo. These appear to represent that the company complies with Postal Service requirements, but the overall effect is deceptive, the Attorney General's petition alleges.
The forms received by business owners are designed to be mistaken for legitimate Yellow Pages forms. Returning the form, which many business owners unwittingly do, triggers invoicing from the company for directory advertising. Business owners who do respond are listed in a "directory" of sorts, which are not distributed to the general public or promoted as promised. All three firms also maintain Yellow Pages sites on the Internet, but these are not properly indexed, so most search engines will not be able to find the businesses listed in them. Thus, the directories, if they exist at all, offer no benefit to the businesses that pay to advertise in them.
A 1999 survey conducted by the YPPA and the Council of Better Business Bureaus found that almost a third of business owners surveyed said they had been billed for Yellow Pages advertising they never ordered. The YPPA estimates that more than $550 million per year is collected by scam artists soliciting for Yellow Pages advertising by using bogus invoices representing print and online directories.
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