Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Businessprofiles.com: Unethical...but probably legal

Whereas some of the previous sites that I have covered through my scam series could have just been businesses that were run badly (e.g. Publicity Monster) or businesses which did not accurately represent what their offering was (e.g. Collins & Kent International), there are some businesses out there that can be actually be bad for you and your business and you can do very little about it.

I believe that businessprofiles.com falls within the category of a business that does business unethically but stays within the letter of the law.  Very simply it is a business that
  • Uses computer programmes to scan government business registers
  • Creates a directory of this register on it's own site
  • It does not seek permission from any organisation to use this data
  • It does not seek permission from the businesses it effectively represents on it's sites
There are many reasons that I think that businessprofiles.com is a bad business but core amongst them are
  • It does not create any value
    • It is taking data from a registry that already exists (and can be searched) and lists this on it's site (i.e. they do nothing themselves)
  • Businesses cannot remove their own business from the site without an onerous process
    • The process for removing your business is a joke
    • You have to fill out a business removal form and then email to them a signed identity validation form
      • If you have signed up for a service then I completely understand this - you do not want people removing your details from directories
      • However given they never asked for your permission to put it up there - requesting a form with your pertinent details is ridiculous
      • Further you are required to give your contact details (phone number, business address) even though this is what you are trying to remove in the first place
        • I am more than happy to give these details to a service I signed up to but refuse to do it for an unethical business who ripped my details off another site
  • Because they add no value and appear to be a computer crawling site - they cannot update your site details - they tell you to get the government agency to do so
    • If a business directory is going to list your details you should be entitled to change them
    • However because businessprofiles.com is such an bad concept and operator they have no ability to edit your details but rather require you to get the government agency to change your details and then their computer crawler will eventually update it
  • There are reports that they have requested payment to remove listings
  • Even if your business is old and no longer registered it stays up on this site
    • Several years ago when I was at university I registered a business name which still shows up on this site along with my personal details - this is actually how I discovered the site and how bad they were
    • Because they publish your name, it will often come up quite high if anyone googles your name
    • Note that if you are thinking of registering your business as a sole trader that whatever personal details are on the government registry will also be published on this site
This site does not add any value to the Internet and can be very bad for businesses.  If they report old and out of date information your customers can be led astray and your business can be misrepresented and there is little that you can do about it.

Unfortunately because the information they use is available on the government sites they are probably within the letter of the law but they are a mighty unethical business.  I have tried digging up who they are but they have hidden their tracks pretty well.  If you do want to contact them their contact email address is contact@businessprofiles.com.

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