SCAM guides have struck yet again, but finally the European Commission has launched an investigation and wants to hear from victims about their plight.
The deadline on submitting your views on the subject is December
16. Visit www.ec.europa.eu/yourvoice, select your
language and search for 2006/114/EC. Then proceed to fill out the
Submissions are published so keep it simple and factual.
Although the questionnaire is quite long, many of the questions are
optional, so it need not take a long time to complete.
The latest attempts to con art and antiques dealers have been
made by Expo-Guide, an organisation purporting to be based in
France but in reality operating out of Mexico, and the
Valencia-based European City Guide, which is also back to its old
tricks, even targeting ATG directly.
As countless of our news reports published over the past 13
years have explained, members of the trade receive forms appearing
to ask them to confirm their details for a free listing in a guide,
but actually attempting to con them into signing up for expensive,
pointless and unwanted advertising.
Those who sign are then subjected to months - and sometimes
years - of threats and demands for money.
Even when those duped follow instructions on cancelling future
advertising 'orders', these are ignored and the scam guides simply
continue to pursue them.
From ATG's observations of the scams over the years,
the guides play a numbers game, sending out the misleading order
forms to thousands of companies and concentrating on targeting
those from whom they get a reaction in the hope of scaring them
into paying up.
Campaigning website stopecg.org, dedicated to stopping the scam and
helping victims, reported on police raids on a number of offending
companies linked to European City Guide in Switzerland in July
2009. At the time the European Parliament said it was considering
adopting measures put forward in a report by one of its MEPs aimed
at combating misleading advertising by business-directory
Now the Commission has published its consultation exercise,
which is looking at the possibility of new legislation as well as
strengthening cross-border powers and tightening up existing
ATG have made a submission, which includes the
following: "As the leading industry weekly publication for the fine
art and antiques trade, we have been reporting on this issue since
1998. It is without doubt the news issue about which we have had
more complaints than any other in all that time. It has affected
hundreds, and probably thousands, of art and antiques dealers, fair
organisers and auction houses.
"The effect has been so widespread and notorious that we have
even been consulted by professionals from other industries who have
heard about the scale of the problem [within ours]. To say that it
has caused heartache and misery to a large number of our
subscribers is putting it mildly.
"We have a thick file of evidence, countless news stories on our
website that can be checked, and we have made previous
representations to MEPs in the hope of getting something done. The
Office of Fair Trading in the UK eventually gave up on the problem
because it had become so widespread that it no longer had the
resources to deal with it."
By Ivan Macquisten