Saturday, February 12, 2005

Suit claims 'checks' were ad contracts

Daily Herald

This activity at Yellow Pages Inc. make me sick. Never, never, never cash a "check" from a "Yellow Pages Publisher" unless you are absolutely certain that you were meant to receive it.


Della Long Halper knew she was closing her St. Charles psychology practice in March 2004.

So why, she wondered, was she getting bills for more than $170 in new advertising?

The answer was found in small print on the back of a check she endorsed, a check worth little more than $3.

By cashing that check, Halper unknowingly entered into a contract with an Internet advertising firm that's now the defendant in a lawsuit filed Thursday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

The suit claims Halper and 25 other individuals or small businesses in 13 Illinois counties including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry were duped into advertising contracts for more $177 or $179 with Yellow Pages Inc. The company is charged with violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

Yellow Pages Inc., a Nevada corporation based in California, operates as and is not affiliated with the Yellow Pages phone books.

A number of those complaining to Madigan said they initially believed the bills were for advertising they had taken out in the Yellow Pages phone book.

Also named in the suit is Continental Recovery Services, a collection agency that went after businesses that signed the checks but didn't pay the advertising bill, the suit claims. The company never registered with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation as a collection agency, the suit said.

Halper said she signed the initial "contract" check as part of a stack of checks she received from clients. It had happened before, but she hadn't been aware that the advertising she was paying for was not advertising she solicited.

"I had paid other companies money think it was advertising in the yellow pages," she said. "There is something wrong with having to make sure you don't hire someone by mistake."

She contacted Yellow Pages Inc., which ultimately canceled the contract. She also called Madigan's office, which added her complaint to Thursday's suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

Yellow Pages Inc. could not be reached for comment.


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