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Construct Data Verlag GmbH – now Construct Data Publishers Verlag AG – are claiming that a February 2005 court ruling in France effectively overturns a judgment of fraud against them in Germany and a ruling in Austria that they are in breach of the Austrian Advertising Code.

There is no apparent evidence to support their claim, however.

As ATG have reported numerous times in the past, the firm operate FAIRGuide and send out forms to unwitting exhibitors that, on first appearance, seem to be from official organisers of events asking them simply to update their details free of charge.

The reality is that those failing to read the small print before they sign are trapped into an expensive contract for unwanted and useless advertising via FAIRGuide’s website – and months, if not years of harassment by the company and their subsidiary debt collection agency, Premium Recovery AG.

Construct Data are now reported to have successfully defended a claim in February this year by Congrés et Expositions de Bourdeaux, who argued that forms sent out by Construct Data were made to look like official literature linked to their events. They wanted the forms redesigned.

Construct Data are thought to be attempting to use their victory in the case as evidence that the German and Austrian rulings no longer stand.

The German ruling, made in June 2004 at Chemnitz Regional Court, stated that Construct Data AG’s offers were formulated in such a way that they intended to deceive under the German Criminal Code.

The Austrian Advertising Council issued an alert in January 2005, saying they had twice investigated the FAIRGuide mailing and found it to be misleading, and hence in breach of the Austrian Advertising Code.

They asked Construct Data to ensure that all future advertising should state payment obligations clearly and prominently and that their advertising should not mislead by ambiguity.

However, the mailing remains unchanged.

The scam is thought to operate on a percentage return basis, with about ten per cent of victims paying up after threats of court action and harassment. It appears that Construct Data and Premium Recovery AG target those who are intimidated into responding to letters demanding payment, especially those who attempt to make a part payment, as they are effectively acknowledging that the contract is valid and that they owe the sums demanded.

As has always been the case, the forms their victims sign state that the sole legal venue for dispute is in Austria. It is difficult to see, on this basis, how such a contract could be enforced in an English court. Furthermore, with the Austrian Advertising Council ruling showing that Construct Data are aware of the misleading nature of their forms, it is hard to see how they could win a claim for payment even in an Austrian court.

As we always recommend, however, those who continue to be worried by a demand for payment may wish to take professional legal advice before deciding what to do.