Tuesday, June 03, 2008


A Second Trip To Brusels

It has been a year since I last visited Brussels and made my first presentation to the Petitions Committee

After a slow start, things have are on the move, Arlene McCarthy MEP has raised the matter in The Parliament, leading to a short debate. Commissioner Meglena Kuneva has written to member states that host guides and received responses from several, The Petitions and Internal markets Committees have both moved forward and Rapporteur, Simon Busuttil MEP, is starting to compile his report.

In short I arrived in a Brussels where there is a real head of steam on the matter and MEPs from all parties are showing determination that this scourge must be stopped. Do not thank me for this, thank your MEPs and most of all yourselves, everyone who has written to their MEP or petitioned the parliament has contributed, if you have not yet written, it is not too late, see the info at the end of this report

I got to the Accreditation centre at mid day, I was early and there was no pass for me but the problem was quickly resolved, I must compliment the way the staff of the committees work under considerable pressure, the agendas were constantly changing to fit with who could be present but at no time was I left in the dark as to what was going on.

Once inside I had 10 minutes to go over my presentation with Richard Corbett MEP, who has done so much to help over the years, then to meet Simon Busuttil, Rapporteur for the Petitions Committee, Mr Busuttil had obtained a copy of the printed European City Guide as a prop for the press conference and he and his assistant were busy thumbing the pages for Malta, They were clearly surprised at how many organisations they knew personally were listed.

It is a challenge I suggest any reader with a few minutes to spare takes up, visit
http://www.eurocityguide.com/ and look up your home town, see how many organisations that you know are listed. Now magnify that across the whole continent! Oh, and if you have the time, why not phone a few of those companies and see if they signed in error? If they did, please tell them about this campaign and get them to write letters of complaint.

After a quick look at the guide it was time to do the press conference.
You can read reports from the press conference here and here

Interview with Simon Busuttil conducted later the same day.

After The Press conference there was time for a quick coffee before hurrying down to the Petitions Committee. Vincenso had arrived from Italy, he is the instigator of the petition against the ECG, and he was also the first person to set up a website against the guide (way back in 2000).

Unfortunately the agenda was changed again to accommodate Irish petitioners who were in danger of missing their flights home and our presentations slipped towards the end of the day. I had just discovered that my presentation to the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) was on and the 2 were now in danger of overlapping

By the time we spoke our presentations were cut from 5 to 3 minutes, I scored out parts of my hard worked on speech but still got cut short before covering the main points I had on possible ways of partially extending the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and on the need for a central advice website. Vincenso faired better and was able to give some good data on the numbers of people affected in Italy

MEPs were then given just one minute each
See my detailed notes on MEP responses

As soon as the debate was over I had to run to catch the IMCO, here at last a longer opportunity to explain how the guides operate, what EU laws might work against them and the possible pitfalls of using such laws against a wily opponent.

This committee is investigating in greater detail what mechanisms might be used to tackle the scam guide problem. As I was preparing answers for questions I have not managed to make full notes on the proceedings.

The main questions received covered:
There were also useful suggestions on upcoming acts in the parliament and how they might help as well as the use of Self Regulatory Organisations (SROs)

What was most striking about returning to Brussels was the breadth and depth of MEPs understanding of the problem and the very clear cross-party resolve that these scams need to be stopped.

If you are affected by any of the guides listed on stopecg.org or by another business to business directory scam based in Europe, please make sure MEPs and the Commissioner are aware of your plight. Here is how.

What should you write?
StopECG encourages people complaining about the guides to send a short letter explaining your experiences, include comments on how this has affected you financially and emotionally. Has it caused strains within an organisation because one person signed in error and others must deal with the fallout? Have you lost sleep over the matter? Have you paid the guide and/or paid for legal advice? Have you suffered abusive phone calls from sham debt collection outfits?
With the letter please send scans of your correspondence with the guides/debt collectors and replies from national governments and or local authorities. If you feel a national or regional authority has replied in an unsatisfactory manner please flag that up in your covering letter.

EU Residents
Go to
and click the link for your country, you should then see a link in the top tabs for ‘Your MEP’, or ‘Your Representative’ Click this link and you will get a map of Europe.
(Lost? Here is the Map in English)
On the map, Click your country,

Some Countries list MEPs by region, navigate to your region and write to All MEPs who represent the region (Yes, there may be several)

Other countries list MEPs without noting the area that elected them, in this instance you may need to contact one at random and ask their assistance in letting you know which MEPs you should write to.

Non EU Residents complaining about scam guides based within the EU should write direct to the commissioner:

Meglena Kuneva
DG Health and Consumer Protection

Please CC your letter to the Rapporteur

Simon Busuttil MEP,
Altiero Spinelli,
60 rue Wiertz,

For general advice on writing letters of complaint please visit the main Stopecg website

Jules Woodell, 3rd June 2008

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