Firm accused of directory scam is raided by police

A company accused of tricking GPs into signing up to directory listings costing thousands of pounds has been raided by Swiss police and had its staff arrested.

But the BMA has so far refused to rescind its advice that GPs facing such demands are legally obliged to pay up.

Novachannel AG has written to a number of GPs offering them a ‘free' listing in Physicians and Therapists Guide.

But the small print makes clear that, by replying, GPs have agreed to advertise in the publication, and will be billed for several hundred pounds.

Those who refuse to pay have been faced with a succession of letters threatening legal action, each demanding more money than the last.

Now the company's offices in Lucerne have been raided by the Swiss police. Nine people were arrested, and documents impounded.

The Swiss authorities said that the raids were motivated by complaints from victims of the company's activities, spread right across Europe.

However, prior to the raid, Novachannel seems to have sold its directory business to a different company based in Portugal. GPs who were tricked into signing up to the Physicians and Therapists Guide have continued to receive identically worded demands for payment.

GP contacted Portugal-based United Lda by telephone and email at its Lisbon offices offering it a right to reply in June but it chose not to respond.

A BMA spokesman said that ‘there's quite obviously a lower risk to GPs that they'll be charged if the company has been told to cease trading'.

But he stopped short of rescinding the earlier advice to pay up, simply saying that the association would be ‘monitoring' the situation.

Last winter GPC legal officer Chris Finlan advised LMCs that ‘there is not much that can be done' about the company. ‘The legal view is that this is a binding contract', she said.

One GP who has been caught out by Novachannel complained that the GPC had been of little use. ‘It simply send me a package encouraging me to join the BMA, which is the typical, unhelpful response I expected,' he said.

A BMA spokesman said that GPs should always read the small print before signing a contract.

* Email Jonn if you have received demands in relation to the Physicians and Therapists Guide.


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