The pro-forma invoicing scam in which companies are billed for unsolicited magazine advertising has spread to online publishing.
The Commerce Commission is warning New Zealand organisations to be wary of false invoices or pro forma invoicing after an internet business guide tried to charge a local company for a listing it didn’t want.
Taupo chartered accountant Stretton and Co received a bill for $US960 for an entry into an “Internet Business Guide” from UTP Digital Directories in Switzerland.
According to UTP's website, the directory is "a growing enterprise with more than 1.4 million entries from over 200 countries".
The computer manager at the accounting firm, Dave Cowman, says Stretton never applied for listing in the directory and the invoice was unsolicited.
The UTP Internet Business Guide appears to be a valid operation but Commerce Commission spokesman Vince Cholewa says even so, such invoices are a breach of the Fair Trading Act, which states in section 13 (c) “No person shall … falsely represent that a particular person has agreed to acquire goods or services.”
However, the commission has no jurisdiction to take action against an organisation that doesn’t have a physical presence in New Zealand.
Cholewa says the best method of combating such scams is to have an effective system for ordering goods or services, checking that what was ordered was received and authorising payments.