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 questionnaire.
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 companies.
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 laws.
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