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Office of Fair Trading warns businesses to be wary 13 January 2006

    Island businesses are being urged by the Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading to be wary of calls or visits made by marketing companies offering advertising space in directories, wall planners and maps. They often claim that taking up their offer will support the likes of schools, emergency services benevolent funds or other charities and in some cases they will even claim to have the support of Government.

    Even if the business refuses the initial offer to participate they will often receive subsequent contacts from the companies demanding payment claiming that the business entered into a legally binding contract. When challenged to produce confirmation of such a contract the company will argue that they have voice recording of all phone calls or an official order but never produce a copy. Nevertheless they continue to send threatening letters demanding payment hoping that these will be dealt with by junior staff or simply processed without further investigation.

    Legitimate companies selling this type of advertising do exist but to reduce the risks of falling for cold call scams the Office has the following tips:

    • Don't take unsolicited calls when you are busy and can't give the salesman your full attention - if you want to talk, ask them to call back at a convenient time.
    • Don't agree to something on the phone just to get rid of a persistent caller - legally binding agreements can be made over the phone.
    • Be wary of unsolicited callers suggesting or implying that you are placing an order or entering an agreement when you don't wish to do so.
    • Be wary of follow-up calls - you may think they're just verifying details but they may be trying to trick you into entering into an agreement.
    • If you're not clear about any details, don't be rushed - ask questions.
    • If it is claimed your advertisement will support a particular charity, contact the charity.
    • If you wish to make a charitable donation make it directly to the charity, only a small percentage of any advertising costs will likely go to any charity.
    • Don't be pressurised into paying for services you haven't agreed to, that haven't been provided or that don't match those agreed to: if you are threatened with debt collectors or a credit black-listing, remember that ultimately only a court can decide whether you are liable to pay and disputes with another business will not necessarily affect your credit rating.

    Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading, Quintin Gill MHK, said:

    "Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to these types of unfair business practice. We advise all businesses to be wary: don't be pressured or tricked into agreeing to advertising you don't want or into paying for something you haven't requested."

    13th January 2006

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