European City Guide found guilty by Belgian court

Article Posted 4th April 2007

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The text below is a translated summary of articles that appeared in the Belgian press in March, The original articles can be viewed here:

http://www.hln.be/hlns/cache/det/art_360801.html?wt.bron=hlnRPArtikels
http://www.politics.be/persmededelingen/14266/
http://www.tijd.be/ondernemen/artikel.asp?Id=2769490
http://www.demine.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=383

The court papers (In French) can be viewed here:
http://www.demine.info:8888/European_city_guide-JGT_penal_080307.pdf

Contents
  1. Translation
  2. Analysis
Translation
Summary translation of news items of the court case in Belgium against European City Guide

A judgment was given on the 8th March against European City Guide in a case brought by no fewer than 400 Belgian companies on the ground that "European City Guide wishes to mislead people by sending them letters which invariably contain false information inviting them to correct it by means of sending the letter back, without reading the small print in which they are simultaneously committing themselves to a three year subscription" (words of Philip Erkes, one of the lawyers of the 400 victims).

In its judgment, the Court condemned the publisher of European City Guide to a fine of 275,000 euros for misleading publicity, fraud and attempted fraud.

UNIZO (the association of the self employed in Belgian) welcomed this judgment and considers it to be a warning against other similar so-called guides which work in a similar manner to swindle companies. Indeed, Unizo has initiated a case against the publisher of the so-called Internet Company Guide which employs similar methods. This case was initiated in October 2006 and UNIZO is inviting any of its members who have been duped to join it in the case.

Analysis
First and foremost this case proves that where there is a will to gather companies together scams like the ECG can be beaten. Belgium is a small nation yet 400 firms could be found who wished to join this case. Hopefully this will be the catalyst needed for similar actions in larger states. Sadly, it has again fallen to non governmental organizations to do the hard work. The Authorities in Valencia could and should take this problem in hand.

The words used against the ECG, misleading publicity, fraud and attempted fraud are strong, they put a coach and horses through the ECG’s bogus claim that the fault in any dispute lies with the person who signed the document for not examining it more closely.

Of course we have been here before, the ECG was fined 300,000 Euros in 2003 for mailing deceptive forms, they fled Barcelona, changed the forms ever so slightly and continued with the same old scam.

Perhaps though, the most telling point is in the words of Lawyer Philip Erkes when he notes that the forms invariably contain false information (Mistakes). It is true that the ECGs mailshots are riddled with typos and errors, there can only be 2 possible reasons for this.

1) The ECGs Staff are stupid
or
2 The forms are deliberately mailed with errors in order to distract the recipient into data correction thus making it more likely that they will fail to notice the small print.


We invite any of the ECGs staff (past or present) to contact stopECG and tell us which reason is correct.

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