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June 7, 2011

"Yellow Pages" Look-Alike to Stop Iowa Marketing

(DES MOINES, Iowa)  A company soliciting “Yellow Page” advertising, whose solicitations feature a logo that is similar to the established and recognized “Yellow Pages” logo, has agreed to cease marketing in Iowa, as part of an agreement reached Tuesday with Attorney General Tom Miller.

The agreement, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, compels Yellow Publishing, LTD, doing business as Yellow Page B.V., and, to cease marketing to Iowa residents.  The company’s unverified addresses are listed in New York, NY and The Netherlands.

Nineteen Iowa consumers have filed complaints on behalf of their businesses with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.  Consumers complained that they were deceived by the “Yellow Page” name and logo on faxes to their businesses, which appear similar to AT&T’s “Yellow Pages” logo featuring “walking fingers.”  Consumers also complained that they were misled by Yellow Publishing’s marketing materials, which prominently state “free submission to,” but in fine print charge $89 a month for “registration” in the “directory.”  Yellow Page Publishing does not publish a local phone book, but posts listings on its website.

“Several small businesses owners in Iowa have complained about this company’s sales tactics,” said Attorney General Tom Miller.  “Some thought the solicitations they received were local phone book ad orders or renewals.  Others saw the free listing sales pitch at the top, but they missed the fine print at the bottom about the thousand dollars a year for a so-called ‘directory’ registration that’s not even in a phone book.  In either case, consumers felt they were tricked.”

Several companies complained after receiving collection notices from Yellow Page B.V. claiming that they owe $1,068 for 12 months of registration.  Companies also complained that Yellow Page B.V. threatened legal action or threatened to refer cases to a debt collection agency and, in some cases, did attempt to pursue payment through collection agencies.

Miller notes that many companies and solicitors, including deceptive solicitors, associate their solicitations with the term “Yellow Pages,” which may confuse consumers.  Miller recommends that any consumer receiving a so-called “Yellow Pages” solicitation or invoice read it carefully before responding, even if it may appear to be a simple update of an existing “Yellow Pages” listing.  Consumers should ask if the solicitor publishes a phone book or phone directory, who receives the book and how many are distributed, where they are distributed, whether there is a cost to receive a book, whether the solicitation involves, or is limited to, a listing on a website, and the website address (which consumers should verify).  Consumers should check with their local phone book provider to ask whether a solicitation, when in doubt, is affiliated with their company.  Consumers considering an online “Yellow Pages” listing should consider checking references by contacting companies listed in the directory, or check with the Better Business Bureau.

Consumers who feel they have been misled by any company should seek a refund.  If a company refuses the request, they should file a complaint by contacting the Consumer Protection Division at  Consumers can also file complaints by phone by calling 515-281-5926, or 888-777-4590, toll free, outside the Des Moines area.  Or write us at Office of Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.


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