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A blight on business for the past 15 years or more, the latest attempt to con the trade comes from Germany under the name UK Trade & Economy Services.

As ATG readers will know from the countless warnings we have issued on these pages over the years, members of the trade receive forms through the post appearing to ask them to confirm their details for a free listing, 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.

In broken English, the letter headed up UK Trade & Economy Services is actually from TVV Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH, a Hamburg-based operation, which asks the recipient to "check the data of your company", inviting them to correct the details for a basic data entry into their UK Corporate Portal at no cost.

The letter goes on to invite the recipient to sign off the enclosed form if they want to "go beyond the basic data entry". Although the letter refers to costs at this stage, the broken English does not make it clear who bears them.

The form, which bears a close resemblance to those issued by scam guides tackled by the Spanish and Swiss authorities, carries small print detailing costs of £797 annually for a single advertisement. The small print goes on to state that those who sign will be liable for at least four years and more than £3000.

Serial Scam

In more than a decade of reporting this issue, ATG have yet to hear of a victim successfully cancelling either the original or extended order, even when they have tried to do so. What we have learnt is that the perpetrators tend to focus their attention on, and efforts to extract money from, anyone who reacts to their demands in any way.

TVV Tele Verzeichnis Verlag GmbH, who stipulate that German law applies to the order, further reserve the right "to take legal action at the general place of jurisdiction of the customer" and add another clause allowing themselves to increase their charges.

The one crumb of comfort for those who have fallen foul of the forms is that in all the 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.

Such has been the problem with scam guides that websites such as stopecg.org have been set up in the past to campaign against them.

The European Commission has consulted widely on the issue with a view to introducing legislation to tackle it.