THE Swiss authorities have launched a criminal investigation into scam guide firms and their associated debt recovery agencies.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), who are behind the move, have named several companies who have been the subject of ATG complaints going back to 1998.
SECO are now waiting to see if they will get the go-ahead to prosecute the likes of NovaChannel AG, OVAG International AG and Premium Recovery AG, who have all been linked to scam guides such as FAIRGuide, Tourism Guide and European City Guide.
As ATG readers will know, many members of the trade have fallen victim to the scams, which involve the arrival of unsolicited forms asking dealers to update their details for inclusion in guides. The small print reveals that they are, in fact, order forms for advertising at expensive rates, which often tie in the victims for years. Once signed, they are deemed legally binding by the scam agencies, who then hound their victims with threats of legal action if payment is not forthcoming.
“The fees charged for the directory entry bear no relation to the benefits,” say SECO, who believe that, with agencies operating out of at least three countries, “there is reason to suspect an international scheme of dubious business practices”.
“The relevant prosecuting authorities will have to decide whether or not the complaints brought against the business practices in question fulfil the offence of unfair competition.” If so, SECO can prosecute under federal legislation.