I’ll say this for Portal Empresarial aka Industry and Commerce aka European City Guide: they’re jolly persistent. Kenneth Broomfield, who runs Poplar Stores in Northwich, Cheshire got a letter last month from this Spanish scam ‘publisher’ demanding he pay for three ads at the price of 997 euros per insertion.
The letter was from the ‘legal department’ and full of legalese. It also suggested that, to avoid court, he could pay for just the one issue: 1,206.37 euros (£872.57) in full and final settlement.
Kenneth remembers getting the form which asked him to just confirm they had his business details correct. “This has been going on since 2013,” he says. “I spoke to the fraud squad who said chuck it out.”
Sensible advice. It got me thinking, though; this lot have been around for at least 16 years even though they were closed down at one point by a Spanish court.
They are obviously good at what they do and people are falling for it or they wouldn’t still be doing it. And I assume that they are bombarding other EU countries. If you were on the Continent you might take their court threats seriously.
So, just to be clear, they won’t go anywhere near the courts. I always tell people send it to Trading Standards and they can forward it to their Spanish counterparts.
In fact, I’ve just dug the following out of my files, dated March 2001. It’s a press release headed ‘International co-operation halts cross-border scam’ and it came from the OFT. It says in part: “A Spanish company that misled UK businesses into paying for adverts in a directory has been stopped in its tracks following co-operation between the OFT and its colleagues in Spain. European City Guide, based in Barcelona, has been told to change its mailshots by the Catalan Department of Industry, Commerce and Tourism after the OFT raised its concerns with the authority. It is believed that more than five million mailshots were sent to European businesses over the past two years.”
And 14 years later they are still at it with entirely misleading mailshots. I also like the fact that one of their names - Industry and Commerce - is a sort of homage to that Catalan Dept.