Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed a lawsuit Thursday against a New Jersey-based online advertiser for attempting to coerce Arkansas businesses into paying for services the businesses did not authorize.
Electronic Media Marketing Group Inc., which does business as General Yellow Pages, is accused of violating the federal Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock.
McDaniel accused General Yellow Pages of attempting to convince business owners that the businesses had agreed to a "free trial" of advertising, and because the service was not affirmatively canceled, they were obligated to pay hundreds of dollars for an additional year of advertising services. The defendant would then send $599.95 invoices to the businesses.
The businesses had never agreed to an advertising "free trial" and the businesses had never sought paid advertising from General Yellow Pages, according to the suit.
"In this audacious scheme, the defendant sought to deceive Arkansas business owners into paying for a service they had never heard of," McDaniel said. "When businesses didn’t fall for the scam, the defendant continued to send bills, make repeated phone calls and threaten collection actions. I am confident that the court will make sure these illegal actions are ended."
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has received multiple complaints from Arkansas businesses about General Yellow Pages’ practices.
Several businesses have asked General Yellow Pages to provide proof that free-trial advertising had been authorized. The company has been unable to provide such proof, but has continued to send invoices to businesses, some of which reflect "late fees" because the businesses did not pay previous invoices. One invoice was about $900.
McDaniel asked the Court to issue an injunction requiring General Yellow Pages to cease its practices and to order the defendant to pay civil penalties, restitution and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Directory assistance said it had no telephone listing for General Yellow Pages in Upper Montclair, N.J.