Blog of Raivo Laanemets

Stories about web development, consulting and personal computers.

Ending (online) fraudulent agreements

On 2016-07-11

Online scams are quite common. Nigerian scam mails rarely work nowadays because everyone knows about them but there are other types of frauds that can trick some people and companies into harmful legal agreements. One of such cases is the European Business Number that I blogged about some time ago. The EBN letter is sent to companies. This avoids spam-related laws in many countries. For example, in Estonia it's OK to send spam to company public email address while it's not OK to send to an individual person address.

The EBN letter is sent by snail mail and looks like something from an official EU institution. It is not. It is even stated in the small print. The letter consists of two pieces. The first one talks about updating some registry entries which is supposed to be free. The second part has the actual form to enter the company data. It also contains the fine print with the actual terms.

I almost filled the form myself. I had a starting company selling IT services and I liked to get as much exposure as possible. A registry of companies sounded good. Thankfully, I read the fine print. 677 or something euros per year did not look very good. I have had my data and entries in some free catalogs and registries before and for my type of company it has not turned out to be very effcient, especially compared to other approaches like blogging and networking.

Unfortunately, some companies have responded to the letter and are now stuck with an useless agreement that only benefits one side. I have got some feedback to the original EBN article asking how to get rid of the agreement and whether you get sued if you do not pay them. I'm not a lawyer but I did some online research on it.

Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ECCI) has an article on these types of scams. The article is in Estonian and therefore not very useful for the most of my readers. It written by a lawyer and strongly advices to ignore such letters. It also tells what to do when you have already responded and started the agreement: you should contact the EBN registry and let them know that you end the agreement on the basis that the agreement is a fraud. Once you have done that, you should ignore all threats and invoices sent by the EBN fraudstrers.

There should be an equivalent to ECCI in your country. You should contact them if you want further information. They are likely to give the same suggestion to end the agreement. Or contact them anyway. We might get enough international pressure to end EBN once and for all. Paying EBN just gives fraudsters more resources to send the letter to more companies and trick them into something they do not want.