A MARSH woman is warning retailers in Huddersfield to be on their guard after her shop was targeted by a ‘free’ business directory.
Alison Rayner, who runs the Don’t Forget card and gift shop, received a letter from Business Internet Directory asking her to update her shop’s details.
The letter said it listed businesses online for free and would help get the shop’s details out there to the public.
But first the York-based company needed missing details – the shop’s category of business – to be able to activate its business listing.
The letter said: “We feel it is important that your business details are present and correct on the Business Internet Directory for UK businesses.
“We need your business category so that we can activate your business listing.”
The letter asked Alison to call a telephone number to update her details, but the owner of the Westbourne Road-based shop said she immediately became suspicious.
She said: “As soon as I read the letter I thought something wasn’t right.
“It said I needed to provide my business category but a six-year-old with access to Google could have gone online and found that out.
“They had all the other details of the shop, like the address and phone number, so it struck me as very odd that they didn’t know what type of business it was.”
Mrs Rayner’s suspicion that all was not as it seemed was confirmed when she read the back, which was filled with small print.
She said: “On the front of the letter it says the service is free, but then I turned to the back and there was some very hard to read small print.
“The gist of it was that as soon as you pick up the phone and ring the number your business is entered into a contract.
“It then talked about payment and if full payment wasn’t received it would be passed to a debt collector.
“It was awful really. I rang Trading Standards in Leeds straight away.”
Mrs Rayner is now warning other local companies not to be fooled into paying for a service that appears to be free.
She said: “Because of the way it is worded some workers – like office juniors – would probably think nothing of just picking up the phone to update their details, believing it is something they can easily deal with.
“But they could end up paying quite steeply, something small businesses don’t need at the moment.
“There’s always somebody out there willing to take money off trusting people.
“My advice is be very wary of letters like these – I would definitely say ignore it.”
A spokeswoman from Consumer Direct Yorkshire said: “Businesses continue to be targeted by companies using aggressive sales practices.
“Never agree to anything in a rush and remember that it is possible to enter into a legally binding contract over the phone.
“Find out more about the supplier before you agree to an order and always remember to ask for a phone number, contact name and address.”
The Examiner was unable to contact a spokesperson for Business Internet Directory, but a customer sales assistant denied businesses are entered into a contract when they update their details.
She said: “We do offer a free listing but customers have the option to pay for our other services.”