Liam Aylward MEP for Ireland East has warned Offaly businesses to be on high alert following the increase in ‘directory scams’ and misleading advertising practices.
Speaking in the European Parliament following a vote on a new report on ‘Misleading Advertising Practices”, Liam Aylward stated, “as an MEP for Ireland East I have been contacted by many local SMEs who have been caught out and duped.
“The vote today sends a clear message from MEPs to the European Commission and national authorities, on behalf of these companies, that they need to step up their efforts and ensure a cohesive cross-border approach to stamp out these unscrupulous practices which exploit the current gaps in legislation across the EU.
“While there is some legislation in place which covers this issue in general terms, it is clear the these fraudsters are operating in the gaps and utilizing the discrepancies in implementation and national standards on a cross-border basis to hide and get away with their scams.”
At present only Austria and Belgium have included a specific ban on misleading directory schemes and rogue companies are exploiting this gap across the EU. The differences in national provisions create legal uncertainties and opportunities for misleading advertising scams to exploit.
The MEP highlighted the aim of these scams is to trick businesses, small firms and tradespeople into signing up for fraudulent directories or website listings.
“The forms sent by these unscrupulous companies often look official but are misleading and companies end up being harassed and threatened for payments on excessive bills.
“SMEs need to be vigilant but it is also clear the both national authorities and the EU Commission need to improve the supports and advice available to the companies who have fallen victim of these scams. The lives of many victims of these scams have been made a misery due to the threats and intimidation tactics.”
The Report voted today recommended that national authorities and the EU increase coordination and efforts to protect and assist the businesses affected.
According to Liam Aylward, “today’s Report calls on Europol to play a more active role in tackling these forms of fraud, for national authorities to increase their role in information sharing to assist businesses and citizens in warning each other and to assist SMEs in the settlement of cross-border disputes.”
However the MEP stressed that “the Commission must take the initiative to introduce a targeted legislative revision in order to address this problem and should also set up without delay a proper cross-border enforcement mechanism to protect and assist SMEs.”