Unfortunately, as in every industry, the opportunity for fraudulent activity exists.
The Magazine Publishers Association is often approached for advice about overcoming a problem that exists between an advertiser and a publisher who is not conducting business within the strict ethics of fair trading and credible publishing.
The following information is supplied as a result of research done into past cases and using information supplied by the New Zealand Commerce Commission. The Commission has been successful in prosecuting a number of people in respect of this type of activity and the MPA fully supports their efforts in this area.
Identify the problem
In most instances the initial problem is the result of clients receiving a false invoice. Usually targeted to the smaller business who have been bluffed into paying for services (“advertising”) they did not have a comprehensive understanding of at the time.
Preventing the problem
You are fully within your rights to insist on a background to the company you are dealing with. Ask if they are members of the MPA. Do they subscribe to getting their publication audited by ABC, and if not why not (both of these organizations provide a credibility to publishing)? Ensure the company you are dealing with can provide you with a physical address.
If you feel the organization is one that you may wish to deal with, ask them to send you a SPACE BOOKING FORM. This will allow you to read information about the company and verify some of the above. The other thing this does is ensure that any document you choose to sign in the first instance is simply a form that books space.
At this point you have not given the company any authority to produce advertising material for you.
You must also be given adequate time to cancel the space booking you have made.
NEVER assume that advertising material sent to you by fax, mail or email is something you have previously approved for use in the publication being spoken about. It could have been lifted from another publication. OF CRITICAL IMPORTANCE….
Watch for this statement on any printed material sent to you…..;
Any verbal agreement on the part of a sales representative of ..what ever company is approaching you..may not be recognised unless the agreement is in writing…..;
This statement has allowed unscrupulous publishers to subsequently deny that the staff said or had authority to make such a verbal agreement. Your signature on the document simply agrees with what the so called publishers rules are.
NEVER sign the document sent to you if you are in doubt, EVEN IF YOU are returning it to reject the offer. Your signature can be lifted.
Simply write on another sheet of paper the message you wish to convey indicating that you will not pay any invoice that is sent in relation to the advertisement
DO NOT PUT YOUR SIGNATURE ON ANYTHING.
Disclaimers made by prospective publishers on material sent to you can often warn you that they already have a concern about their approach.
e.g. “I confirm that I have the authority to order this advertising on behalf of the company and acknowledge that this fax proof is an agreement to book the advertising.”
The Commerce Commission confirm that this disclaimer is invalid if misrepresentations were made to you to place an advertisement previously.
Pressure to comply with time
The majority of mistakes in respect to agreement with problem advertising are made because the sales pitch works on the emotive area of time pressure.
THE GOLDEN RULE IS : IF YOU ARE NOT READY, DO NOT AGREE.
Debt collection threats
If you feel you have been duped into a situation of false advertising and false invoicing, do not make the assumption that threats of collection agencies means you must pay.
Do not ignore any correspondence from such an agency. Simply advise them the issue is under dispute and send them copies of your correspondence with the people concerned.
Again do not sign the material. It has been known for the agency to be the original company.
History tells us that most problems have been associated with magazines that fall into the area of employee associations, community groups or those claiming to provide community services, often relating to children, health, road and fire safety.
In recent times it has been evident that in an effort to encroach upon more commercially-based publications some sales people from doubtful publishers have been using the technique of confusing the potential advertiser by using another publisher’s name, masthead reference etc.
Again the rule applies ; ask for a booking form to be sent to you.
Legitimate publishers suffer
The fraudulent activity of rogue publishers can affect the profitability of even the largest legitimate publishers. And while fraud techniques may vary, they all have the same damaging consequences for both advertiser and the legitimate publisher.
Legitimate publishers never have any concerns about sharing information on their company, sales and editorial staff, their readership information and circulation figures. Most will be in a position to verify the latter with certificates.
The MPA provides this information as a background and a broad guideline. The MPA works closely with the New Zealand Commerce Commission in an effort to prevent any aspect of fraudulent publishing.
THE GOLDEN RULE – IF IN DOUBT ‘JUST SAY NO’.