Telephone "yellow pages" scams crop up from time to time and you may find yourself paying for services you never ordered.
Anyone can use the term "yellow pages" or feature the "walking fingers" logo. While you might identify these features with your major local telephone company, the phrase and logo are not copyright protected so any individual or business may use them in soliciting business from you.
California law requires companies issuing such solicitations to place in large print:
"This is NOT a bill. This is a solicitation for the order of goods and services, or both. You are under no obligation to make any payment unless you accept this offer."
The United States Post Office has similar regulations. Some companies vary the language and some use print so faint that it makes these notices very difficult to read. The basic problem, however, is not that the invoice is regarded as a bill, but that the recipient believes it has come from the company's regular Yellow Page publisher.
Although we investigate these matters along with the United States postal inspectors, law enforcement actions in this area are difficult to maintain because of the following reasons:
- The companies are often out-of-state and difficult to locate even if they have a California address on the invoice. They also have a tendency to disappear if governmental action is brought, only to reappear under another name.
- The federal government has encouraged competition in the Yellow Page business and use of walking fingers or the phrase "Yellow Pages" or the use of ads cut out from other publications are not necessarily in violation of state or federal law.
- There are no statutes requiring such companies to print a specified minimum number of copies.