OTTAWA, — The Competition Bureau announced today that five companies and three individuals were found to have violated the Competition Act for operating a deceptive marketing scheme targeting businesses, individuals and organizations across Canada and internationally.
As a result of the Bureau's actions, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ordered that any mail sent to the companies and individuals, which has been held since a Court order in July 2011, be returned to the victims. The Court also declared that any contracts entered into with the companies and individuals by Canadians null and void.
Additionally, the Court has ordered that the companies and individuals:
- pay administrative monetary penalties totalling $9,035,000 ($8 million by the companies and $1,035,000 by the individuals);
- publish corrective notices on websites hosted at any of the domain names of the companies or individuals and send letters to all Canadian businesses, individuals and organizations targeted by the scam; and
- pay full restitution to the victims of the scam.
"The court's decision supports our work to protect businesses and consumers from deceptive marketing practices and gives money back to these victims," said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition.
"Today's order is the product of significant international coordination with our law enforcement partners to vigorously pursue those seeking to deceive consumers on a global scale."
By using symbols that closely resemble the well-known trademark of the Yellow Pages Group, the companies and individuals deceived consumers into believing that they were merely updating contact information for an online business directory listing. In fact, buried in the fine print was a stipulation that, by returning the form, victims were committing to a new two-year contract for a listing at an annual cost of $1,428 with companies that have no relation to the Yellow Pages Group.
During its investigation, the Bureau worked closely with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which is undertaking a simultaneous court action against U.S. targets, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the U.K. National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.
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