Revenge of the directory scams

From correspondence I’ve had with constituents recently, it seems that an old scam has resurfaced. It was previously known as the European City Guide, but seems to have recently reinvented itself as the “United Kingdom Industry Commerce Directory”.

Under various names, this shady organisation sends an official-looking form to small businesses, voluntary organisations and even charities, asking them to update their details for some kind of database. The suggestion is that the company will then use these details to update a Europe-wide business directory.

This is not the case. The directory never comes into existence, but a few weeks after signing, the victims receive the first of several letters demanding payment of many hundreds of euros for ‘updating’ their details — a requirement that was hidden in the small print of the misleading form.

Any business that doesn’t immediately pay up then receives a series of increasingly threatening letters, first from the scam company, then from its supposed debt collectors and lawyers. Of course, many businesses — especially small businesses — assume that the mistake is theirs, or are scared by the threat of legal action, and eventually pay up.

The scammers were previously based in Barcelona and Valencia, but they move on whenever they are in danger of getting found out, reinventing themselves with a different company name in a different region or country.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t give legal advice. If you have signed a form, you must make your own decision about whether to pay. But you should know that UK and EU authorities consider these letters to be fraudulent.

If you have been contacted by this company or by anything similar, here are my suggestions:

When these scams first appeared about 10 years ago, I worked hard to raise awareness and push for strengthened EU-wide legislation to stop them. I am deeply concerned that they seem to be resurfacing, and I will do my best to support those affected.

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6 Comments

  1. Thank you for your reassuring words.
    In 2013 I was contacted by an organisation ‘Chamber + Commerce’ based in Spain.
    I did sign a form which I believe may have been ‘doctored’. Upon receiving an ‘invoice’ for over 1000 Euros I contacted Manchester Chamber of Commerce who said that it was a scam, and to ignore any future communication. I have since received numerous invoices with escalating sums, culminating in a recent letter referring to using international debt collectors and using the documentation in court unless they receive payment by 2nd April – all somewhat unnerving. I contacted the legal department of my professional institute who also think it is a scam and advised me to ignore all contact. I have since received two telephone calls. I went to Stockport Police and with their advice I have reported the details to Action Fraud.

  2. The European City Guide tried to scam my company out of 3 years advertising that we did not sign up to. We refused to acknowledge their increasingly aggressive correspondence and subsequent telephone calls. Eventually they went away when we emailed them links to MEPS describing their company as a scam. Just ignore them and make paper aeroplanes of their correspondence

  3. We have just received a fax regarding this scam and it is saying that a recovery company is now going to get us –
    contact: Ms R James Tel 0034660026370/ fax 0034901667183
    email mailto:js@recovery-office.com

    It all appears to be the same scam, now trying to get money another way, as we have never received a fax before. I am really tired of this company and am in mind to go to Spain and ring their necks

    Thanks for your info and we are now going to contact the MEP for our area here in Scotland – I have reported this to the anto-fraud, but I thought they went out of business, but will try and contact them once again..

    Can you offer any suggestions?

  4. 09 Feb
    Just to update anyone that is having this bother from Industry and Commerce people regarding advertising in this scam directory…
    They are now using an ENGLISH Accent speaking woman – calling herself Ruby James – phoning from Spain 0034660026370 stating that the money is due because we ORDERED to advertise in their directory, etc…A bit intimidating action taken by this company, but remember that it is THEIR DIME and put them on hold!! Or better yet, let them know that you will be recording this conversation. If they say they will take you to court IN SPAIN duh..it is in SPAIN!! Do not speak to the, email, or fax them – give out NO information – contact your MEP…be calm, cool, and hang up – give them no email address, no phone number, – less information is best….

  5. I had exactly the same. Signed the fork in error… received DID and Sam my details on the site etc. 2005 and then it was the European City Guide. Same letters faxes phone calls etc. Same threats at an ever escalating pace.

    It is a scam. No one ever prosecuted. They will Give up after realising that the chance of cash appearing is nil.

    It is a real nuisance though. Worried me. Oh and if u did pay the first year then you are in real trouble as they will know you are vulnerable and really go on the razzle for more years.

    A secretary at a local small business paid a year, 600 odd pounds as she worried she would receive the wrath of her boss. The lass really did not have that sort of money.

    Actually it is a criminal activity.

    John

  6. Hello there,
    Does anyone know if this scam covers a company called British Business and Commerce, based in Germany?
    I signed for a directory entry, didn’t see the very small text about costing £977. Once I received the invoice I sent an email explaining my mistake and asked them to cancel the entry. Just received a formal looking letter explaining it’s too late as it’s 2 weeks from signing and could I now comply.
    I don’t want the company listed there!!
    Does anyone have a suggestion on what to do?

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