In September 2011 I wanted to increase my exposure on Google local search results, namely through their spider/bot finding my business listed on well-known/authoritative local business directories.
I signed up to the free listing packages of Qype, Yelp, Scoot, Touch Local, LDS (Local data search), Bview, Brown book, City Visitor, uFindus, Smile Local, Freeindex, Hotfrog.
1. Cold Sales Call Qype Premium: The Pitch
Within 24hours receiving calls from sales team at Qype Premium.
In contrast to what some have said about the initial sales calls they received, the rep was well mannered.
The pitch included 50 keywords covering several areas, that would maximise my Google local search results.
MIS-SELLING TACTIC 1: Was told that Qype guarantee their premium partners at least 500 visits to their webpage over a year, failing that they offer a full money back refund.
Was quoted a monthly price but was told that bigger discounts are applicable on the longer term campaigns. The choice was a 1 month at standard price, a 3 months subscription, a 6 months subscription and a 1 year subscription. The 3-month price was £213.75.
MIS-SELLING TACTIC 2: I was told that just prior to the end of 3 months I would get a call/email when I can choose whether or not to carry on the campaign. At that time I would have a chance to pay for any further term of subscription as I chose to, by a choice of payment methods. I was assured that the 3 month subscription and charges would not be automatically reoccurring.
COMPETING DIRECTORIES: Scoot and Touch Local also called within the first week of completing a free listing, trying to sell upgraded listing packages.
2. Cold Sales Call Qype Premium: The Sale
An ex-employee paid £213.75 for the 3 month package over the phone via debit card.
MIS-SELLING TACTIC 3: Was told that I would receive an email in which I must click a link to access the premium account and start setting up the keywords for the listing. Was hurried into clicking the link so work could begin setting-up the keywords.
The email was Order Confirmation: Qype Premium Business Listing
Sales Rep Full Name: James Cullen
I am delighted to confirm your order and officially welcome you as a Qype customer.
You are now part of the fastest growing online and mobile business search directory in the UK, and as a Premium Partner you will reach even more people who are looking for the products and services you offer.
To activate your premium account follow this link to view and accept our terms and conditions: http://www.qype.co.uk/business_users/confirm_tc/49453-869974b1814edc0815f3561f767ab35b8bcf64ea
Your Order Details:
Package: Qype Premium web
Location: London, Bayswater, Paddington, Marylebone and Marble Arch
Contract term: 12 months with a minimum of 6 months
Top Listing Price: £750 Discount: 5 Price invoiced: £712.50
Monthly Price excl VAT: £59.38
Monthly Price incl VAT: £71.25
Total to pay incl VAT: £213.75 for 3 months.
For questions, please call our customer service team from Monday to Friday from 9:30 -
17:30 on *******409, or email *******@qype.com.
The Qype team
We look forward to working with you in getting the most out of Qype to make your business even more successful.
MIS-SELLING TACTIC 4: To activate your premium account follow this link to view and accept our terms and conditions: http://www.qype.co.uk/business_users/confirm_tc/49453-869974b1814edc0815f3561f767ab35b8bcf64ea
This automatically binds you to any contract of their choice subject. It does not navigate to a view of the terms and conditions upon which you can then accept. Having searched on Google recently shows many other customers of Qype complaining of this, some posts going back a couple of years now. These threads often have a Qype representative also active (at some point) in the discussion. So Qype know about this, have known for quite some time and are actively making the decision to continue using this tactic. Whoever handles business risk for Qype obviously deems the earnings from continuing this practice as a dishonest business strategy worth taking the risk for in its operations.
MIS-SELLING TACTIC 5: The Contract term and listing price is far from clear being sandwiched in with the category and location details. The Monthly Price excl VAT, Monthly Price incl VAT and Total to pay incl VAT have been segregated from the full price invoiced further adding to confusion, seemingly to draw attention away from the Contract term, minimum period and price invoiced.
MIS-SELLING TACTIC 6: The link to activate the premium listing is above the Order details. It would be more clearer to be at the end, following the details.
COMPETING DIRECTORIES: We also purchased enhanced listings from Scoot Business Directory. They were clear, provided details and terms and conditions prior to taking any card details or payment.
3. The Service Qype Premium Listing
They did help with choosing the keywords which saved us time. Help was provided in completing the listing details. This I do commend Qype on doing.
Qype staff, username ClientServices2, uploaded copyrighted photographs ripped from my website, without prior consent from me, to my listing. Now for most businesses this may not be an issue. However for my industry this is a big problem. They should not have done this. Also seeing the issues other Qype customers have had trying to get their details deleted from Qype, show that Qype is unwilling to do so. This is exactly due to the reason why I have an issue with them taking photographs from my website: Qype then claim my creative work as their own content. Not only does this have effect on my Google rankings, this is also in violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).
When I needed changes implemented to my listing that couldn't be carried out via the My business section, Qype Business Help were quick in doing so.
Their listings, in my opinion, are the best looking out of the big local directories.
COMPETING DIRECTORIES: Other directories, namely Touch Local/Scoot offered similar levels of post-sales care. Yelp was by far the worst in implementing changes to business details.
4. First signs of trouble Qype Premium rogue invoice?
On 12th July 2012 I received an email Qype Invoice
Dear Sir / Madam
I would like to take this time to thank you for your participation in this advertising partnership.
Please find attached your Qype invoice.
UK Billing Team
Qype UK Ltd
Tel:+ 44 (0)*******409
Mob: 07900 197 076
95 New Cavendish Street
The invoice had particularly dubious details,
Invoice # 5007168
Tax Id (blank)
Due Date 1/1/2012
PO # (blank)
Start Date (blank)
End Date (blank)
Rather worryingly, the Bill To had the business name, the first name of an employee the Qype sales rep first spoke, the address registered for the card used at purchase of the 3 month subscription (an ex-employee allowed the one time use of their card for that purchase).
Even more peculiar:
Item / Opening Balance
Contract Value / 427.48
Amount / 427.48
Tax Rate / 0.0%
Tax Amt / 0.00
Gross Amt / 427.48
Inv Billing Sched... / (blank)
My reply on 12th July 2012 was:
We don't want to continue our Qype membership, so will not be paying any further subscriptions.
On the 13th July 2012 received email from Qype Billing
Qype Invoice Sent in Error
Dear Sir / Madam
Please ignore the invoice that we emailed to you last night.
This was sent by a systems error, and the amount shown bears no relation to any balances on your account.
We apologise for any confusion that this may have caused, and can reassure you that this was not a Friday 13th hoax!
UK Billing Team
Browsing through complaints about Qype found all over the web, it seems many people received this hoax invoice. There could be a relationship between those customers claiming wrongful charges by Qype and the receipt of this invoice. The invoice is obviously generated from the accounting/billing system Qype employ, and behold those that received the invoice also are claiming unauthorised charges to their card or some other related billing disputes.
MIS-SELLING TACTIC 7: After this incident why did Qype not confirm the balances of the customers' accounts? Did they not want unsuspecting customers to find out they are continually being charged by Qype? I was clear in my reply that I won't be paying any charges as I did not wish to continue any premium subscription with Qype. Why did they not then tell me I am being charged for a one year contract.
COMPETING DIRECTORIES: No other directory has sent me any invoices in error.
5. Demands for money Qype Premium Renewals & Retentions
Returning from holiday on September 14th 2012 I find my business in complete disarray. I have upwards of 5 voicemails from a Qype representative James Cullen (now Head of Renewals and Retentions) demanding over £600 for arrears relating to the Premium Listing. His tone is very rude, sounding furious like he is out for blood. Further more my receptionist has walked out leaving the lines unmanned for any customer calls. The junior employee has been panicked by Qype rep James Cullen's claims that they are accountable for the debt owed to Qype.
DISHONEST ACT 1: In response to our claim that we were not signed up to a one year contract, James Cullen apologises explaining there must have been a miscommunication and time of sale. He blames Qype rep James Hunt saying it was him who sold the premium package. Checking http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/james-hunt/30/95b/870 finds James Hunt has only been a Trainee Manager with Qype from January 2012 Present (9 months). And from the original email Order Confirmation: Qype Premium Business Listing, Date: 19.09.2011, Sales Rep Full Name: James Cullen. It is also signed Kind regards James Cullen.
DISHONEST ACT 2: To prove that we have signed up to a one year contract, Qype rep James Cullen in email QYPE ACCOUNT - URGENT ATTENTION PLEASE received 12th September 2012 copies in what he claims, (quoted) ...the original order form that was agreed for the contract with Qype (original tasktype: E-Mail). It seems authentic. He even didn't bother changing the sales rep name to James Hunt (who he blames for the miscommunication), leaving his own name there. However, there is one critical inconsistency with the original email. Where the original email received 19th September 2011 reads Total to pay incl VAT: £213.75 for 3 months, this claimed original order form reads Total to pay incl VAT: £213.75 for 3 months (min x2). Note the addition of (min x2).
DISHONEST ACT 3: The first payment we made on 19th September 2011 was using a debit card from an ex-employee who allowed a one-time use of his card facilities. The ex-employee left my business not long after that, and I have had limited contact with them since. Qype representative says they have tried three times to take a quarterly charge of £213.75 since then, all of which have failed. There was no communication to ourselves nor the cardholder more importantly that Qype would attempt to take any payment from this card. Qype never sought the cardholder's permission for any such charges. So Qype have tried to process 3 unauthorised charges during the year.
DISHONEST ACT 4: Head of Renewals and Retentions, James Cullen, explains that since it is a business to business sale, they allow up to 12 months of arrears till they seek all charges to be settled. Why didn't they make contact after the first or second failed attempts to take money from the card. Is it because they wanted to hide the fact they were attempting to take unauthorised payments from the card? Or is it because they didn't want the miscommunication that we were in a one year contract come up at some earlier point, thus allowing a large charge to be accumulated. His explanation of why the bill was allowed to be accumulated seems to contradict what is found in their terms and conditions:
5.1 Payment of the applicable Charge shall be due in advance of the relevant Subscription Period: on
submission of your Order and, thereafter, on the [working day immediately preceding
commencement of each Renewal Period].
5.6 Failure to pay any Charge to us by the due date shall be deemed a material breach of these terms
4.3 We shall be entitled to terminate your Subscription immediately at any time on written notice to
4.3.1 you are in material or persistent breach of any these terms and conditions, and, in the event of a
material breach (where such breach is capable of remedy), you fail to remedy the breach within
 days of receipt of notice of such breach;
Qype Retentions Strategy: The offer was made by Qype to clear the outstanding balance of £641.25 if a new subscription was taken out and we provide payment for starting a new subscription.
COMPETING DIRECTORIES: No other directory has caused me any issues or acted dishonest in the manner we have been treated by Qype.
6. Guaranteed Potential Customers Qype Premium
At time of sale we were led to believe that Qype have a policy of guaranteed leads via clicks/visits through to your website in size of 500 in one year (ref MIS-SELLING TACTIC 1). Should this not be achieved they refund any charges made to their Premium Partners.
Looking through various forums with Qype customers expressing similar complaints I see that some refer to it as a get out clause.
Now rather than clicks/visits through to your website, the terms and conditions states
4.10 Money back guarantee (only for Premium Partner registered by telephone). Qype Ltd guarantees the number of five hundred (500) Guaranteed Potential Customers (GPC) for their Premium Partner product over the term of 12 months, failure to reach the Guaranteed Potential Customers purchased over the term of the contract will lead to a full refund. This means that your Business will be seen a minimum of 500 times.
There is still some vagueness in what is meant by your Business will be seen a minimum of 500 times. Thankfully Richard, username Qype UK on ukbusinessforums.co.uk, clarifies in http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/forums/showpost.php?p=1233079&postcount=8 that Qype commit to delivering 500 potential customers to your business page on Qype over the period of 12 months. Scouring the Qype Business pages also indicates that Guaranteed Potential Customers (GPC) relates to visits to your business page on Qype, not actual visits to your website as we were led to believe prior to sale.
DISHONEST ACT 5: Luckily I saved a copy of Your statistics (Web only) which was narrowly before the data was deleted by Qype on Friday 14th September 2012. From the statistics they removed, the number of visits to my business page for the months September 2011 to August 2012 was only 302, far less than their 500 GPC guarantees. Did they want to hide this from me?
7. A year of statistics Qype Premium versus competing local directories
Traffic Stats taken from Google Analytics for period September 19th 2011 to September 14th 2012
The total number or visits that my site received from all sources was 132749.
Yelp 187 visits, 0.14% of all traffic, price free.
Touch Local 187 visits, 0.14% of all traffic, price free.
Scoot Business Directory 84 visits, 0.06% of all traffic, price £99 plus VAT for 1 year.
Qype Premium 24 visits, 6 of which were by me checking the links through admin.qype. So Qype accounted for 0.014% of all traffic, price currently stands at £855.00 for 1 year contract which I never agreed to.
Brown Book 5 visits, price free.
8. Dispute Resolution Qype Premium
Being a business owner myself, I believe that companies prove themselves by their actions when faced with things going wrong. Their treatment of a customer complaint, a return, a sales dispute etc and how they actually go about resolving these issues is a huge factor to building their brand and ensures their success, (think John Lewis).
So I am not going to cast judgement on Qype just yet. I want to see how they deal with this issue.
I could just try and deal directly with James Cullen Head of Renewals and Retentions at Qype, though I don't have the time to write another huge catalogue of dishonest practices, lies, shady tactics and so on.
So I want to see what Qype brand managers have to say, they should be about watching these forums. I've seen them on other Qype complaint threads.
I gained much from reading of other woes similar in regards to Qype Premium charges. I hope that I too can now pass on some help to others in a similar situation or those debating whether or not to purchase Qype Premium Partnership.