Two companies - West Bay Acquisitions and Open Business Directory - dominate the list of most complained about businesses reported to the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. Both have been drawing complaints from around the nation.
More than 950 complaints have been lodged against West Bay in the past 12 months, BBB records show. The complaints stem from collections made for allegedly outstanding debt from now defunct Hollywood Video.
Another firm, Universal Fidelity, also collects debt on the books from the former video rental outlet. That company has an email and FAQ on its website (scroll down the page) that shows how to dispute the debt. In addition, a settlement following allegations of strong arm tactics by collectors resulted in a prohibition against reporting these debts to credit reporting agencies. West Bay also has information about Hollywood Video collections on its site.
Nearly 800 complaints have been lodged against Open Business Directory in the past year. Unlike West Bay, which appears responsive to BBB attempts to mediate disputes, Open Business Directory, ignores most attempts to resolve complaints, BBB records show.
Complaints show the company appears to be the actual Yellow Pages - it isn't - and sends invoices to businesses, which many reported duped them into paying. The bill typically exceeds $1,000.
While the outfit lists a Boston address, its own website shows one in Moscow and its official website registration shows an address in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, but to a man with an email address in Russia.
Here's the BBB's write-up about the company:
We have received a number of complaints regarding advertising and sales practice issues. We have received many reports that consumers are receiving advertisements via fax which they are to sign and send back to the company. Yellow-Page-USA.com uses a name and logo so close to the actual Yellow Page Group consumers believe they are dealing with their current advertiser. They are then enrolled into an agreement and told they have to pay a fee to cancel.
Based on BBB files, this company has a high volume and pattern of complaints. This company was notified of our concerns on December 14, 2011. The complaints concerned advertising and sales practice issues. The company has failed to respond to our correspondence and have failed to correct the underlying reason for the complaints.
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Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com