If you've exhibited at SIA, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market or Interbike in either 2004 or 2005, you've likely received an "invitation" to review and update your company's free listing in the Fair Guide -- www.fairguide.com.
The Fair Guide claims to be a business-to-business resource linking exhibitors, exhibitions and potential customers on a global basis. How the Fair Guide obtains the exhibitor information is not clear, but it does get it, and it does post it to its site in a directory format. Then, it sends out the above-mentioned invitation form asking you to update your listing, for free. Seems innocent enough, but you'd be wrong.
The form exhibitors receive from Fair Guide has a pink bar across the top and across the bottom, with the trade show name in bold under the bar with a statement that's similar to the one the SNEWSÂ® team received,Â "You are registered under the following event: Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, United States of America, org: VNU Expositions, Inc."
You will be invited to check your listing, which may or may not be correct, update it for free by filling in the blanks in the form, then mailing it back to the Fair Guide in an enclosed envelope.
At the bottom of the form is a line for your signature and a date, which if you are in a hurry, you might sign before returning the form, thinking you have simply confirmed the changes to your supposed free listing.
What you are actually doing, if you took the time to read the print above your signature, which apparently all too many companies do not do, is confirming your ad insertion order with www.fairguide.com for a three-year term at $981 per year, renewing perpetually unless cancelled in writing, by registered mail.
And here is where your fun will begin. Within weeks, SNEWSÂ® has been told, you'll start receiving letters demanding payment for the ad order you placed. Forget about trying to cancel your order at this point because the company apparently won't listen. You will be harassed with demands from collection agencies, which coincidently are owned by Construct Data Verlag.
On Jan. 26, 2005, the Austrian Advertising Council issued a letter -- click here to read -- stating that it has twice warned Construct Data Verlag (a Swiss company doing business in Austria) that its mailings are in violation of the Austrian Advertisers Code and has asked the company to stop sending the letters. To date, the company has refused and continues to send its letters to exhibitors in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Though there are quite a few websites now dedicated to lifting the veil on the Fair Guide's scam, SNEWSÂ® selected what are two of the best, in our opinion, for you to further research the topic should you desire:
The Association of Exhibition Organizers, a United Kingdom-based association, has issued the following guidelines for dealing with Fairguide.com, The Fair Guide, Construct Data Verlag:
1. If you are contacted by the company or receive a letter inviting you to update your listing, do not complete the form. Throw it out.
2. If you do mistakenly fill it out and return it, the advice is to ignore demands for payment and do not allow yourself to be intimidated into paying. You will likely be asked to settle for a one-year payment to avoid legal action. Again, do not pay anything! So far, Construct Data Verlag has yet to pursue legal action against any company.
3. Keep a written record of any communications you have with Construct Data Verlag.
4. Notify Outdoor Retailer, SIA and Interbike exhibition staff immediately if you receive a letter and ask those trade show organizers to place notices on their websites informing exhibitors about the scam.
The Swedish Exhibition Centre has also issued a warning to all of its exhibiting members stating that, "Construct Data Verlag has used our name and information from our websites without our knowledge or approval. According to the legal advisors that our trade organization has been in touch with, Construct Data Verlag has contravened the Swedish Criminal Code as well as the Swedish Marketing Act with regard to fraud."