Federal Trade Commission Shuts Down Fair Guide Listing Scammer

April 14, 2013

After more than a decade of small and large businesses being scammed out of millions of dollars when were offered what they thought were free listings in a Fair Guide, the Federal Trade Commission has temporarily halted operations of the Slovakian-based guide’s publisher – Construct Data.

"The sweetest justice is justice delayed," said Past-IAEE President Steven Hacker. "This has taken far too long allowing these thugs to terrorize exhibitors and take their money. The industry is a better place today."

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events has warned companies about Construct Data and the Fair Guide for several years: http://www.iaee.com/resources/warnings_to_exhibitors, as well as UFI, the Global Association for the Exhibition Industry: http://www.ufi.org/Public/Default.aspx?Clef_SITESMAPS=142,161 and trade shows themselves: http://www.surfexpo.com/Exhibitors/SCAMWARNINGConstructDataFairGuide.aspx

“We are very pleased with the FTC’s ruling, and have notified all of our members who have kept us informed over the years about the unacceptable operations by Construct Data/Fair Guide," said Current IAEE President David Dubois. "As more information is available, we will continue to communicate with members to serve them and their interests.”

According to the FTC, the defendants sent mailings to retailers, home-based businesses, local associations and others who attended trade shows. 

The mailings mentioned a specific trade show or exhibition and were designed to appear as though they are merely asking the recipient to update and check the accuracy of information for the “exhibitors directory” for the named trade show or exhibition.

As alleged in the FTC’s complaint, the mailings included a form stating that the recipient’s basic information had been listed in the directory for free and instructed them to confirm its accuracy or make corrections on the form. 

The form falsely suggested that the parties had a preexisting business relationship and that the directory listing is related to the recipient’s participation in the named trade show or exhibition. 

Many recipients did not notice a statement, buried in fine print at the bottom of the form, that by signing and returning the form they agreed to pay the defendants $1,717 per year for three years. 

Often, the person who returned the form was not even authorized to enter into contracts for their employer.

According to the complaint, long after the form was signed and returned and the defendants’ 10-day cancellation period expired, the defendants sent an invoice demanding payment of $1,717 to a Slovakian bank account. 

Those who challenged the invoice were told the order cannot be canceled. Late payment notices followed, with late fees added, and some organizations paid just to end the harassment.

The FTC’s complaint was filed against Construct Data Publishers a.s., also doing business as Fair Guide, Wolfgang Valvoda and Susanne Anhorn. 

Construct Data moved from Austria to Slovakia in 2008, after being sued by Austrian authorities for deceptive practices. 

To settle the Austrian case, Construct Data agreed to stop soliciting businesses in the European Union.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0.  The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, issued a temporary restraining order and asset freeze on March 15.

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