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First to rear their head are Fair Guide, the Austrian-based (and, legally therefore, untouchable) online guide, whose advertising booking form masquerades as an official document from Olympia organisers Clarion Events.

Appearing to be a form asking merely that the dealer named update their details, in fact it is a legally binding order form for expensive and useless advertising.

Those who sign are not only opening themselves up to threatening demands for money but years of similar forms and demands to come.

The problem has become so endemic that the Office of Fair Trading, who for years have taken up the cudgels on behalf of British business, have now had to pass on the responsibility for tackling the scams to the national authorities of the countries concerned.

As ever, the Antiques Trade Gazette is warning anyone receiving a form asking for a signature to read the small print first.

Those who have already signed and are faced with unexpected bills should seek professional legal advice and check that the promised listing has actually been published as promised.

Legal venue

The one crumb of comfort for those who have fallen foul of the forms is that in the five or more years that we have been dealing with this issue, we have yet to hear of anyone being taken to court by any of the scam companies for non-payment.

With Construct Data Verlag GmbH, who publish the Fair Guide, the contract stipulates that “the sole legal venue and place of performance is Mödling”, a village south of Vienna in Austria. In light of this, it is difficult to see how they could pursue any claim through the English courts.