Brussels, 22/10/2013 (Agence Europe) – The European Parliament favours strong action to counter scams where small businesses and business people are tricked by expert fraudsters into paying for having their businesses listed in fake or insignificant business directories or being pestered by non-existent patent organisations. Individually these rip-offs may only amount to a few hundred euros but collectively they total billions of euros across the EU alone. In Strasbourg on Tuesday 22 October, MEPs gave their full support to Cornelis de Jong (GUE, Netherlands), who drafted a report on misleading advertising. De Jong is calling for EU action to make it easier to open legal proceedings against fraudsters and is putting the pressure on the Council and the European Commission to act swiftly. Many small business people tricked in this way are reluctant to take legal action for fear of ridicule or through lack of money.

“This month, thousands more firms will have received a fake bill for as much as €960 for the registration of their patents. Thanks to initiatives, such as the fraud hotline, a lot of people will be able to identify a bogus bill. With this report, we're making a sound attempt at the European level to put an end to these forms of deception, for example, by setting up a hotline of this kind in every country”, de Jong said after the vote.

Black list of culprits. Parliament says the first thing is to establish a national focal point in each member state that takes up all the complaints and creates databases of all these misleading practices. Then to dissuade criminals, it calls for a black list of companies found guilty of fraud of this kind. These companies would then be disqualified from any EU subsidy or procurement.

MEPs also call for agreements on national guidelines in relation to legal action so that the police and national ministries make this a priority. They recommend that Europol be involved to help prepare an overview of the situation.

“It is important that this action is taken at European level as a lot of these companies operate across borders, so cooperation is crucial if they are to be tackled. With so much support from the European Parliament, the member states and the European Commission can no longer beat about the bush”, said the rapporteur.

This own-initiative report passed in plenary session is the European Parliament's response to a communication published on 27 November 2012 Protecting businesses against misleading marketing practices and ensuring effective enforcement – Review of Directive 2006/114/EC concerning misleading and comparative advertising. (AN/transl.fl)

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