South West MEP Graham Watson has issued a warning about a potential scam that has left hundreds of people across the South West facing bills of thousands of pounds, after he himself received an invitation to take part.
The European City Guide sends out approximately 6.5m forms offering to advertise small companies in a business directory, seemingly for free. On responding, these businesses start receiving invoices for a costly contract hidden in the small print.
Graham urged local businesses to be aware of the European City Guide and similar scams. He said: “These invitations are designed to be misleading and rip-off small businesses. Anyone who receives one should exercise caution. If in doubt, they should contact the Scambusters team at the Office of Fair Trading.
“I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents about such scams and I am pleased to say that to my knowledge, no-one has ever been forced to pay out. However, the threat and worry that they cause businesses at an already stressful time is appalling.”
Companies like the European City Guide exploit a loophole in fair advertising laws by operating across borders. Watson has led calls in the European Parliament for EU action to crack down on these scamsters.
He said: “This is another example of how European cooperation can benefit us here in the South West. I want the EU to take action to protect small businesses in my constituency and around Europe. We must not let these cowboys turn ride roughshod over fair advertising rules.”