LITTLE ROCK (CN) - General Yellow Pages scammed businesses by claiming they owed for a year's worth of ads that the businesses never bought in the first place, the Arkansas Attorney General claims in court.
Arkansas sued Electronic Media Marketing Group Inc. dba General Yellow Pages, in response to repeated complaints that the company was dunning people and businesses for Internet ads that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel called "illusory."
"When the charge was disputed by a consumer, defendant stated that the business had signed up for a ninety-day free trial period of Internet advertising services one year before the collection call," the lawsuit states.
"Defendant claimed that after the free trial period was over the business was automatically obligated to an additional one-year of service. Defendant asserted that in order to avoid the additional year of costs, the business should have affirmatively cancelled the service within the trial period.
"After the initial collection call, defendant began to send invoices to the business for $599.95. This amount was purportedly for an additional year of Internet advertising.
"Upon receipt of the invoice, many Arkansas businesses contacted defendant to dispute the inaccurate billing and notify defendant that the business had not ever retained the services of defendant. In most cases, the Arkansas business asked defendant to provide documentation that it had agree to a free-trial of defendant's services, such as a contract or a proof of authorization by means such as a recording of the conversation. At every turn, defendant has failed to provide such documentation or any support that the businesses engaged the services of defendant."
General Yellow Pages had the brass to add late fees to the bogus bills, even after its intended victims had complained to the attorney general, according to the complaint.
In fact, the defendant appears to have brazenly lied to the attorney general's office.
"Many Arkansas businesses filed consumer complaints with the Arkansas Attorney General regarding defendant's business practice," the lawsuit states. "In response to consumer complaints sent to it by the Attorney General, defendant stated to the Attorney General that 'a quality control recording is available for streaming.' See Exhibit A. In all instances the defendant never provided such support for its position to the Attorney General. In one instance the defendant did provide a recording. However, the recording was not of the initial call, but of the call when the defendant tried to deceive the business consumer into believing that it had signed up for a ninety-day free trial period. The recording did not indicate that the business consumer consented to purchase the services.
"Defendant continued its billing practices to the Arkansas businesses who had filed complaints with the Attorney General. The additional invoices purport to include late penalties for the alleged customer's failure to pay the initial invoice. Defendant usually applied a 2 percent monthly late charge. In at least one instance, an invoice reached over $800.00. See Exhibit B. Further, defendant has continued to harass the businesses with phone calls and threats of hiring debt collectors to pursue its claims."
McDaniel says his office received seven consumer complaints about the alleged scam.
"The consumers filing these complaints, who usually are managers or owners of a targeted business, never had any previous contact with defendant and its dba prior to defendant contacting the consumer in an attempt to fraudulently extract money from the consumer," the complaint states.
Electric Media Marketing Group, based in Montclair, N.J., New Jersey, "uses the name General Yellow Pages to deceive owners and consumers, as it is close in name to the well-known Yellow Pages," the complaint states.
"In summary, the defendant used deception in an attempt to obtain payments from Arkansas consumers even though consumers had never purchased services from the defendant."
The state seeks an injunction, restitution, civil penalties and damages for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practice Act, the Telemarketing Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.