Owner denounces charges of misleading businesses

The competition bureau says it laid charges after numerous businesses received solicitations from an Internet directory that look like invoices. Some businesses mistakenly sent payments.

The Toronto Star
February 9, 2001

Owner denounces charges of misleading businesses
Net directory sent invoice-type pitches
John Spears

The owner of a business facing charges under the Competition Act says his business is legitimate.

Victor Serfaty issued a press release yesterday complaining that he's being unfairly prosecuted by the Competition Bureau. He owns a numbered company and operates YellowBusinessDirectory.com, an Internet business directory.

He says an important business deal has been held up by the bad publicity.

Serfaty and the numbered company are charged under the misleading representation and the deceptive marketing practices provisions of the act.

The charges have forced him to lay off employees - including a single mother, Serfaty says.

“I'm shocked that the Canadian government would not only allow, but participate in, the destruction of jobs in their country,” he says in his release.

The competition bureau says it laid charges after numerous businesses received solicitations from an Internet directory that look like invoices. Some businesses mistakenly sent payments.

Serfaty says he lists businesses without charge on his Web site initially, then asks them to start paying after a trial period. The fee is $23.50 every three months.

He says the company has received only 150 complaints from businesses who said they sent cheques in error, and all have received refunds.

His site lists “hundreds of thousands” of businesses, and gets 9,000 visits daily, he says.

Serfaty and the numbered company were charged in December for each of four mailings to potential customers. They were charged again this week after another mailing to customers.

Serfaty says he is negotiating to sell 49 per cent of his business to a “large U.S.-based telecom firm.”

“Obviously the recent malicious negative publicity has put a slight damper on our negotiations,” he says in the release. In an interview, he refused to name the U.S. company.

He includes several testimonials from satisfied customers, including a Concord sports bar owner.

Also facing charges are Yellow.com Business Pages Corp., Alan Benlolo and Elliott Benlolo. Serfaty says he has “no connection or affiliation” with the company or the Benlolos.


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