BBB is again alerting businesses to beware of mailings sent by an independent yellow pages publisher, Yellow Pages Directories, P.O. Box 111580, Carrollton, TX. As first reported in 2007 by BBB serving Dallas and Northeast Texas, businesses across the country allege that mailings from Yellow Pages Directories are misleading and fail to adequately disclose the terms of the offer. Due to the complaints, the business has a BBB rating of F, the lowest rating possible.
Businesses complain that the “first and only” notices from Yellow Pages Directories ask businesses to “make additions or corrections” to a “free” directory listing. However, the back of the mailing explains that only an “enhanced” online listing is free, and filling out the form will result in a semi-annual bill of $298 for the print edition, plus charges for bold listings or additional categories. After the first year, the “free” enhanced Internet listing costs $69.90 semi-annually.
“Despite an alert from BBB in 2007 about complaints, and a court order in 2008 following a suit by the Texas Attorney General’s office, complaints are continuing on Yellow Pages Directories,” said Jeannette Kopko, spokesperson for Better Business Bureau serving Dallas and Northeast Texas. “Businesses across the U.S. should be alert to mailings that appear to be confirmation of a Yellow Pages listing, but in fact are offers to buy advertising in independent directories.”
In July, 2011, the owner of a new business in Frisco, TX, complained: “I received what appeared to be a form for correcting any information for my free listing. Since I had changed my phone number I filled out the form and sent it in so that my free listing would have the correct phone number … I received another letter which I opened to find out that I was being billed $298.00 plus a $29.00 late fee … I was very unhappy that they used deceptive practices to get me to sign a contract … in the small print on the back they notify you that you are signing up for an auto-renewing contract.”
In November, 2007, the Texas Attorney General’s office filed suit on Yellow Pages Directories, charging that the business was sending misleading direct mail pieces to businesses across the nation. The suit charged that the mailings suggested the recipients had a pre-existing relationship with Yellow Pages Directories and therefore owed money for an advertisement. Although the word “free” appeared in the mailings, recipients who thought they needed to renew their advertisement were required to pay about $300.
In June, 2008, Yellow Pages Directories was ordered to make refunds to customers. The business also was prohibited from representing a pre-existing relationship where one did not exist, and was ordered to make clear and conspicuous price disclosures in future mailings.
Even after the court order, BBB has received 146 complaints during the last 3 years alleging that the mailings are misleading. Complaints are from 39 states. Yellow Pages Directories answers complaints, maintaining that the offer is clear, and cancels accounts in some cases. The BBB Business Review
for Yellow Pages Directories shows that the business has a BBB rating of F due to the number of complaints, including 8 unresolved complaints and 1 unanswered complaint.
"The bottom line is that these mailings have shown over the years that they have been designed in a manner which is likely to confuse businesses as to their intent or purpose," said David Beasley, Director of Trade Practice Investigations for BBB in Dallas. "Unfortunately businesses that do respond may find that the ‘free’ offers touted within the mailings may result in a bill in excess of $300.”
A business in Illinois complained in March, 2012, “I received, as many others have, what looked like an invoice stating that this was our final chance to get our business listed with the yellow pages. I saw nothing that indicated any amount due so I signed it and sent it in. A few weeks later, I received a letter stating that I owed them $298 … The invoice they originally sent was very deceiving.”
BBB offers these tips for business on Yellow Pages offers:
• Directories may have names that sound alike, so look closely to see who the offer is from. The term “Yellow Pages” can cause confusion because it isn’t copyrighted, and independent directory publishers use the term as well as local telephone companies.
• Check out the business publishing the directory with Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org
. BBB Business Reviews provide a BBB rating from A+ to F based on 16 elements, including whether there are complaints and whether complaints are resolved by the business.
• Alert your accounting personnel to be on the lookout for disguised solicitations. Read Yellow Pages offers carefully, including any small print. Look for terms and conditions, as well as costs.
To check out a business, find lists of BBB Accredited Businesses, see tips and alerts, file a customer complaint, or report false advertising, start at www.bbb.org/
. On your iPhone or iPad, download the free BBB app.