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Ian Hudghton, SNP Member of the European Parliament is renewing his efforts to stop an advertising scam which, he says, has been "allowed to continue unchecked for far too long" and which has caused misery and anxiety for hundreds of businesses the length and breadth of the country. First highlighted by the SNP member in 2002, and again in 2004, the scam concerns Barcelona-based European City Guide which targets small businesses and charitable organisations, urging them to complete and return a pre-printed form for entry in a business guide – at a total cost of 2751 Euros over three years.
Mr Hudghton, whose constituency office in Dundee was invited to subscribe in 2004, but, unsurprisingly, declined said:
"What looks like a straightforward business information check, complete with European flag logo at the top, comes with a hefty price tag of 917 Euros per year for three years. The cost is tucked away in tiny print at the foot of the form and very easily missed. Subscribers don't get a proof copy to check and are permitted a ridiculously short 7 day cooling off period. The first many know of the 2751 Euro liability is when the bill lands on the doormat.
"At this point they write to the company explaining they've made a mistake, and seeking to cancel the advert - to no avail. It's then that letters and phone calls from the debt collectors start. Unfortunately the pressure sometimes becomes too much to bear and the bill is paid.
"Although I have seen a copy of the Guide – and can confirm that it was of a very poor quality – I've never once seen it in a shop, library, tourist office or anywhere else for that matter. Its effectiveness as an advertising medium is, to put it mildly, very questionable and it's certainly not worth the price charged for an advert.
"The advice I've received from Trading Standards, for anyone who gets caught in the ECG's trap is to pay nothing. The ECG is not going to incur the expense of taking legal action. They simply rely on creating fear in the hope of extracting payment.
"Many of those who have fallen prey are small family businesses, run by one or two people. Others are charities which rely on public donations. As citizens of the EU they deserve whatever protection the EU can offer. The European Commission has told me that contracts between companies are regulated by national legislation and not by the EU. This just isn't good enough and patently hasn't put paid to the ECG's activities.
"The European City Guide's deceit has been allowed to continue unchecked for far too long and I'm determined to do all I can to get it stopped. It's time for the EU to get tough and end all the worry and misery the ECG has caused. I've written to the Commissioner asking what they are doing to get the European City Guide scam stopped once and for all."