Rutledge Obtains Judgment Against Electronic Media Marketing Group Inc.
July 28, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that she has obtained a judgment against New Jersey-based Electronic Media Marketing Group Inc., an online advertiser, for violations of consumer protection laws when it coerced Arkansas businesses into paying for services the businesses did not authorize.
In the judgment, Electronic Media Marketing Group Inc. must cease any collection attempts or telemarketing calls in the State. The group must pay a total of $190,000 in civil penalties to the State and $4,500 in attorneys’ fees.
“This company used illegal and threatening tactics to steal money from Arkansas businesses for a service they did not want and in many instances had never heard of in the first place,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Con artists like this are not welcome in Arkansas, and I am pleased that this company will no longer be doing business in our State.”
Electronic Media Marketing Group Inc., which operates as General Yellow Pages, was accused of violating the federal Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
In the original complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock in Feb. 2014, the company was accused of attempting to convince business owners that the businesses had agreed to a “free trial” of advertising, and because the service was not affirmatively canceled, they were obligated to pay hundreds of dollars for an additional year of advertising services. The defendant would then send $599.95 invoices to the businesses. The businesses never agreed to a “free trial” or sought advertising from General Yellow Pages, according to the suit.
The Directory Listing Scam, as this is most commonly referred to, is a scam that hits small and medium-sized businesses, churches, schools and nonprofit organizations regularly. According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers call claiming to "verify" or “confirm” contact information for listings in a business directory. The listing does not exist, but the employee who picked up the phone does not know that. Persuasive callers convince the employee into saying yes.
Next, the scammers send urgent invoices that might include the “walking fingers” logo and the Yellow Pages name. In many cases, the person paying the bills will simply cut a check, not realizing that the company never agreed to pay the hefty fee for the directory. When a business disregards the invoice, the scammers make calls and send collection notices, piling on late fees and other penalties.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division received multiple complaints from Arkansas businesses about General Yellow Pages’ practices, which led to the lawsuit being filed.
A copy of the final judgment can be found here.