The Fair Guide somehow reminded us of spooky childhood stories about the Boogie Man or La Llorona (an old woman who cries at night, missing the children she’s drowned in a river).
The Fair Guide tale was about trade show exhibitors who’d been scammed out of millions of dollars. All they did was innocently fill out a legitimate-looking form to update their company information for a trade show guide. Unlike the tales of the Boogie Man and La Llorona, this one was true, making it even scarier.
Hopefully exhibitors at big trade shows can sleep better at night now. The Fair Guide, or Construct Data Publishers, temporarily has been shut down by the Federal Trade Commission, much to the relief of trade show organizers across the country.
“It’s about time they got this one under control,” one event organizer posted on Facebook upon hearing the news. “Way to go FTC.”
According to a news release, a federal judge has halted the Slovakia-based operation that’s been sending out the forms in order to scam trade show exhibitors for many years.
The ruling only temporarily stops the Fair Guide from conducting its shady business, but the FTC is seeking to halt the scam permanently and force the company to return fees it collected from unsuspecting companies and nonprofits.
The fine print on the form, which bore the headline, “Exhibitors Directory for Fairs and Exhibitors,” noted that your company would be charged fees for an advertising contract. If your form was sent back, generally you’d get a stream of letters threatening legal action because you hadn't paid the $1,717 per year you apparently promised by returning the document.
Before every trade show cycle, we’d receive the form, and in turn warn exhibitors at the Outdoor Retailer Winter and Summer Markets, Interbike, Health and Fitness Business Expo, SHOT Show and SIA to be on the lookout for these forms.
The FTC’s complaint was filed against Construct Data Publishers, also known as Fair Guide, Wolfgang Valvoda and Susanne Anhorn. Generally the FTC files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” the law is being, or has been, violated.
Construct Data moved from Austria to Slovakia in 2008, after being sued by Austrian authorities for deceptive practices. To settle the Austrian case, Construct Data agreed to stop soliciting businesses in the European Union.