An investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has led to the winding up of a bogus internet directory which charged UK firms nearly £1,000 for apparently free listings.
Online Business Index targeted firms in London and Manchester with offers to advertise their details on its online directory.
The letter gave the impression that the listing was free, but companies were subsequently charged £845 plus VAT for a two-year listing.
Online Business Index used London accommodation addresses but its director, Herbert Kerler, operated mainly from Germany.
The firm attracted nearly 500 customers following its first mailshot covering 50,000 London-based businesses.
When most of the targeted firms refused to pay, the directory company hired debt collectors to chase the money.
The High Court heard that Online Business Index did maintain an online directory, but failed to advertise the firms listed beyond those it had already targeted.
A petition to wind up Online Business Index was presented to the High Court on 21 November 2003 following DTI enquiries.
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