A series of actions to tackle marketing scams such as those of misleading directory companies have been published by the European Commission.
Mairéad McGuinness, Fine Gael MEP for Offaly and Ireland East, who has been pushing for these measures for some time, says businesses, professionals and NGOs in Ireland and across Europe badly need this protection from dishonest traders.
“Typically the measures announced today will tackle misleading marketing practices, such as sending out forms asking businesses to update details in their directories, apparently free, but then applying charges, quite substantial charges in some cases,” she said. The MEP said small companies are particularly vulnerable to this kind of fraudulent activity, usually but not exclusively, perpetrated from another EU country, which makes them difficult to trace.
“The current Directive 2006/114/EC on Misleading and Comparative Advertising is not sufficiently robust since unscrupulous merchants are working around the rules in a very disingenuous way. Those who sign up are threatened with legal action if they refuse to pay,” she says.
McGuinness says the Commission now plans to strengthen this Directive to explicitly ban practices such as concealing the commercial intent of a communication.
“It is also planning to step up enforcement of the rules in cross-border cases. The idea is to get the EU members states to work in a co-ordinated way and act together to tackle these fraudsters,” she said.
The Vice-President of the European Commission, Commissioner Viviane Reding, who announced the plan today, had confirmed in a letter to McGuinness earlier this year that concrete proposals were on the way to tackle the issue.
The move follows on from concerns raised by the MEP in relation to aggressive and misleading sales techniques employed by two companies in particular.