Federal trade regulators have filed a complaint against an Oklahoma City business directory they said was sending false invoices for unwanted ads.
Your Yellow Book Inc. was named in a Federal Trade Commission complaint unsealed earlier this week in federal court in Oklahoma City. Also named in the complaint were Brandie Michelle Law, Dustin R. Law and Robert Ray Law.
Commission investigators said Your Yellow Book has been faxing or mailing invoices to small businesses, doctors’ offices, retirement homes and Christian schools since at least 2011.
None of the businesses had previously entered into contracts for advertising, but Your Yellow Book invoices directed them to send $487 for a listing in an online business directory, the commission said. Your Yellow Book representatives then repeatedly called to follow up on the invoices, claiming the businesses previously agreed to the contracts.
In court filings, the FTC said Your Yellow Book and its officers defrauded consumers out of more than $600,000.
“Consumers have suffered and will continue to suffer substantial injury as a result of defendant’s practice of sending and attempting to collect on deceptive invoices for worthless Internet business-directory listings that consumers have not authorized and do not want or need,” the commission said in its complaint for a permanent injunction against Your Yellow Book and its officers.
A federal district judge has scheduled a preliminary hearing Monday on the request for an injunction. The FTC also wants to freeze the company’s assets and wants its officers to preserve company documents and files.
In court filings, the FTC said the Better Business Bureau in Oklahoma City received 28 complaints and eight inquiries about Your Yellow Book since 2011. In each of the complaints, Your Yellow Book did not respond to Better Business Bureau complaint letters.
The FTC included more than a dozen statements from small business owners, some of whom said they had mistakenly paid the invoices for the directory listings.
A phone number listed for Dustin and Brandie Law in court documents was not in service Thursday. Robert Law could not be reached for comment. On its website, Your Yellow Book posted a notice about the FTC action and said federal investigators were mistaken.
“Regretfully, Your Yellow Book has been mistaken for another company that uses what we consider illegal and un-business-like practices,” the company said. “While this is waiting to be resolved, we are forced to provide the following statement from the FTC. Hopefully this will be resolved quickly and we can remove this statement.”
The FTC recently filed similar complaints against business directory companies in other states, including Florida, Washington and Illinois. The commission also went after a company based in Montreal, Canada.
“Businesses and other organizations should train their staff to hang up on cold calls about business directory services,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a news release. “Report them to the FTC. We can pursue these cases even if the scammers hide in another country.”
The FTC said small businesses and other organizations should carefully check their invoices to make sure they’re paying only for legitimate expenses. Companies claiming to provide directory services can also be checked out with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau.
For more information about small business scams, go to business.ftc.gov/documents/0512-small-business-scams.