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Businesses are being urged to beware of a potential new scam which uses high pressure sales techniques being used to sell advertising.

Thurrock Trading Standards has received a number of reports of the potential scam which is targeting local businesses. It begins with a cold call and follows with an offer to draft an advertisement for the business (usually copying detail from the business’ website) which will then appear in a magazine, booklet, calendar or wall planner on behalf of a charity or one of the emergency services.

The cost depends on the size of the advertisement but quotes have been anything up to £400.  The sales pitch is often forceful, well scripted and the call is invariably tape recorded.

Thurrock Trading Standards said; “Our local businesses all allege that they either refused to advertise or wanted time to think about what they were committing to.  In all cases, they received a proof advertisement and an invoice.  When they refused to pay they were told they had entered into a verbal contract and in some cases threatened with debt collectors.”

Investigations are now being made into these reports and Trading Standards has already succeeded in getting many of the businesses to cease their requests for payment and in one case, to admit they had made a mistake.

Action may be taken under the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.  These Regulations are very powerful and contain a mix of criminal, injunctive and seeking of undertakings as its sanctions along with powers of entry and investigation.

The following tips will help businesses deal with the situation if they are approached by these advertising companies.

  1. Firstly, if possible, appoint one person within your business to be responsible for advertising matters and their authorisation.  Instruct all staff that such enquiries must be referred to this person for authorisation. 
  1. If approached by an advertiser, get the name of the caller and the business they represent.
  1. Unless you like the product on offer, do not get involved in any protracted conversation and do not agree to any correspondence being sent to you.  Just say NO.
  1. After finishing the call, make a note of the date and time and what was said.
  1. If you are sent an invoice, respond in writing stating that you did not agree to the advertising and ask for any recording of the sales call to be sent to you.  Contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 or your local Trading Standards business advice line.
  1. If you are sent a letter indicating that proceedings will be commenced if you do not pay, again respond in writing re-affirming your position and keep all relevant copies.  Make sure Consumer Direct and/or your local Trading Standards is updated.


We are always open to opportunites and offers as this recent conversation with a friend shows:

[New Website Owner] Listen, I'm starting up a little sideline in my neck of the woods...flyering residential and local business for PC Support. Basically I'm offering Small Business Setup/Advice, Wi Fi/Wired Setup, Speed Boost and Optimisation, Virus/Spyware/Worm Removal, Software Installs/Upgrades, Email Setup, Complete re-installs, etc etc.....

One of the other things I thought about was Website design service and how I could promote this.....this may be where you come in....I'd be happy to advertise the service and then if any enquiries come about reccommend you.....and if you get the business we negotiate a small fee....plus....I'd like to setup a website of my own to promote what I'm trying to do....nothing complicated just main site with a couple of pages, form to submit for enquiries and email address (so maybe we could factor that in the deal) Anyway...just throwing an idea out there and I thought it might offer you another avenue for work if you're interested...you never know!

[Webbuilt4u] Good idea about this type of business and judging my the amount of questions / problems my clients have with their laptops and PCs I am sure there is a demand out there for PC support in all its forms.

Coincidentally I have another guy who does similar work as me a similar question the other week, I have known him for a couple of years and he has already referred two of his clients to me and I am actually doing a SEO project with one of them now.

The type of website you want sounds exactly in our 'niche' and would be quite easy for us to do, you should start thinking about content and getting something written down regarding your services and what you offer as thats the key thing in a new site. We have a webcopy person that does 8 out of 10 of our website text and if you are time poor and / or dont want to do your own webcopy then thats an option.

In terms of costs / commissions / fees etc I am obviously flexible and happy to give some sort of discount and pay a small commission if any referrals do a website with us but with the other guy we simply refer people to each other. Either way thats a nice problem to have and open to suggestions.

We are busier than ever at the moment (more than 12 projects on the go as of today) but a site like the one you want is our bread and butter and can fit that into the work schedule easily.

[New Website Owner] What about prices for a website like I have described also got some potential work to throw your way...my father-in-law needs some work done on his website....guy he had has let him down badly......are you ok for a phone call with him to have a chat? Let me know your number to pass on.

[Webbuilt4u] Briefly the prices vary depending on the site size / features / SEO of the project and include everything you need with no 'hidden' extras the only thing you need to pay going forward is the standard hosting fee (included in the first payment for 1 year but is £45 per year after that)

Our prices for business brochure sites are between £400 - £1299 and are detailed here website package choices.

the 'optional' extras you may need / want are:

Web content (approx £300 for 10 pages / 3000 words) will be unique / relevant / search engine friendly / optimized once on page and will have a high flesch reading index value.

Logo (if you want this done professionally we put you in touch with a designer who will charge £100 - £200 depending on what you want) if you choose the premier / premier plus package then that cost is included for a graphic logo (we take your company name and create a graphic from that)

Photos - you can supply them yourself of we can purchase them from a stockimage company (normally £2-£5 per pic depending on size / resolution)

Its fine for a chat 01375 460094 or 07743 853976 anytime.