It has come to SEMA's attention that some SEMA members have received a one-page notice offering a "free" listing in The FAIR Guide operated by Construct Data Verlag (also known as Construct Data AG) based in Austria. However, the small print at the bottom of the page notes that by signing and returning the document, you have entered into a three-year, non-retractable contract to pay up to $1,000 a year for the listing.
Six months ago, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) warned that www.expo-guide.com, a company operating out of Mexico, was offering a similar “free” listing. SEMA recommends that you not complete these types of listing forms.
Here is how a “free listing” scam works. A group collects your company's name and mailing address from the yellow pages or other publication, and then sends you a form asking you to provide supplemental information (phone, fax, e-mail, etc.) for your "FREE" listing in their guide.
Nevertheless, the fine print at the bottom of the page states that by signing and returning the form you have agreed to pay for the listing. The group then sends you a collection letter several weeks later. If you don't pay, they continue to send dunning notices and threaten litigation.
While SEMA cannot provide advice on how to respond to collection tactics, we note that many companies have disputed the validity of The Fair Guide contracts. The Austrian Advertising Council has found them to be a breach of the Austrian Advertising Code. On February 13, 2007, Construct Data signed an agreement to cease mailing the misleading contracts from Austria and to cancel their demands for disputed monies.
Here are links to the issue along with a sample letter to be sent if disputing dunning notices sent from Austria:
Regarding Expo Guide, the IAEE posted this warning: www.iaee.com/information__resources/warnings_to_exhibitors.
To file a complaint in the United States, you may wish to contact:
Federal Trade Commission
Office of Business Fraud
600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580
You can also file a mail fraud complaint with the United States Postal Service:
For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at firstname.lastname@example.org.