Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Report From Brussels Pt.2, The German perspective

Below is a translation of Micheal Plümpe's report from the September 11th Meeting in Brussels including an explanation of the unique situation in Germany.

Special German Phenomena discussed in Brussels

A report by Michael Plümpe

I am from Berlin and therefore know the corridors of power first hand. Almost every week I pass the Government buildings by commuter train and regularly cannot prevent myself getting goose pimples.

This mixture of architectural pomp and bureaucratic utility is witness to the pride of a self-contained administration. This part of the city is structured like a machine and was built brand new on was what a bomb site to offer German citizens maximum efficiency in every aspect of administration, but it makes me scared.

The European Parliament in Brussels, however, is completely different. It is also a new edifice, but somehow fitted into the middle of a genuine old town at a genuine railway station. It seems to me more like a congress centre. The offices must be somewhere else, perhaps scattered throughout the whole city.

Inside people run around wearing black shoes and carrying backpacks, a strange combination. Where are the sleeve protectors? Where are the important faces in black suits? The safety procedures are relaxed and accreditation was quick and unbureaucratic - show your invitation, put on the name tag and welcome to the Plenary hall in which the committee meets. It is impressively professional. The round hall has outer walls with panes of tinted glass, behind each of which is a translator's cabin. How many languages Europe has! Despite this we can speak to each other without difficulty. These is not halls of power, these is halls of democracy.

So much for the atmosphere. A workshop is due to take place. The rappoteur of the parliament wanted to forge some ideas as to how to intervene in the problem of address book fraud. Where and how can and should the European Parliament become active to stop address book fraud.

Jules Woodell from stopecg.org spoke first. He had 3 minutes and made it even shorter. The law must be improved so that address book fraud can be punished throughout Europe.

Address Book Fraud - A German Invention?
After Jules Woodell it was my turn. I was prepared more for 10 minutes than for three, and therefore had to restrict myself top the essential points. The most important for me was to report to the parliament and to the invited organizations that address book fraud appears to be a German invention. Behind address book fraud, now active throughout the world, there are almost always German manipulators (Drahtzieher) and I believe that in Germany there are special conditions that are particularly favorable to address book fraud.

The particular German features that have enabled address book fraud to be so successful strong have also caused it to become a European and even a worldwide problem.

In Germany there is a legal distinction between the consumer and a trader. Whereas consumer protection is well developed, a trader is to a great extent left out in the cold.

There is a decision of the Federal Supreme Court that can be interpreted as an invitation to fraudsters to trick traders. In this decision it was stated that a trader must exercise particular care in signing documents. This which even prompted a judge in Düsseldorf to declare that a trader who signed as a result of a trick could have consulted a lawyer before signing. It was of course not known to the judge that even lawyers regularly fall for these trick forms.

In addition to the legal problems, Germany provides a particularly first class environment for address book fraudsters, and indeed economic fraudsters in general.

Germany - ideal for mafia-type networks
Address book fraudsters create mafia-type networks. They work with front men under the protection of service companies, shake off critics by company hopping and escape from the consequences overseas. Such mafia-type structures require overall secrecy, stealth and the special knowledge that only exists within the network.

Nothing is more harmful to dubious business practices than to be exposed to the harsh light of day. In Germany the fraudsters find the best conditions for such infrastructure.

Germany - the country of the muzzle
In German anyone can apply to have critical information forbidden, without a reasoned decision and without hearing the affected party.

This is not so readily possible in other democratic countries. Of course, also in Germany there are the usual promises found in a democracy that one can express one's opinion at any time, that information may not be suppressed. This is written in the constitution.

In Germany however, this constitutional right is not realizable in practice; a nice idea, but completely artificial.

There is a well-practiced legal structure which makes it possible to prohibit any opinion irrespective of whether it concerns information or opinion. The legal means is the "preliminary injunction" (Einstweilige Verfügung). Let us assume that a businessman has been criticized as being a fraudster on account of his dubious practices. He simply has to go to an attorney, sign a statutory declaration that he has an honest business and has never been convicted for fraud, and immediately a preliminary injunction is issued, which forbids one from calling this rogue trader a rogue trader or trickster. This happens without a court hearing and without asking the other party.

After that the other party can appeal, in which case there is a hearing in which he can prove that his statement was correct.

Theoretically he can, but it costs time and money, both of which the economic fraudsters have amply available, but not so the ordinary citizen.

Poisoning the constitution with ease
The practice of the preliminary injunction has another thorn in store for freedom of information, and this can be deadly for the expression of opinions. This is the basing of legal costs on "the value at stake".

It is a German phenomenon that the value at stake determines lawyers' and court costs. (The higher the value at stake the greater the legal costs), As far as I know this concept does not exist in other countries. With a preliminary injunction, the applicant can determine the value at stake.

In my case these sums regularly amounted to one hundred thousand euros and more, that is sums that lead to astronomical court costs. Who dares in these circumstances to publish any information or express any opinion?

These are the particularly German conditions, ideal conditions for economic fraudsters and address book tricksters who do not want their methods and accomplices to become known.

Unfortunately at this point in my lecture the Chairman indicated that my time had been exceeded, but I got the impression that the members of parliament present had understood.

The results of the meeting of the European Parliament
During the meeting it became clear that there were two basic positions.

One group was of the opinion that there were sufficient laws and that the problem was simply in implementation.

This group preferred an increased raising of awareness within the business community. In other words, the business community should be better informed and there should be a central European organization created that should help the business community to protect themselves against address book fraudsters.

The other group held the view that the law was not sufficient. An example was quoted from an ex-East block country of a firm belonging to the Ludenbach address book network that had won several court cases. Some courts there consider the wording is not deceptive and the successful decisions are then used to intimidate others into paying. In this way the tricksters are now earning millions. On the other hand, in Belgium the Ludenbach trick was given a clear rebuff by the court.

This shows that there is different legal treatment in different countries and that clearer laws are necessary in order to prevent in such miscarriage of justice as is now happening in the Czech Republic from occurring in the future.

The committee sat from 15:00 to 17:30 and in this short time discussed an astoundingly large number of aspects of the theme.

The next meeting will take place in October 2008.

Michael Plümpe

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Monday, September 22, 2008


Report from Brussels: Lopez Paleaz defends the ECG

As time permits I will write up in more detail the proceedings of the Public workshop of the Petitions Committee in the European Parliament which was held on 11th September 2008.

For now I will concentrate on the presentation and answers of Francisco Lopez Palaez, who, flanked by his lawyer, spoke on behalf of the European City Guide (ECG). Mr Lopez Paleaz has fronted the ECG pretty much from the outset, and has steered the company though it’s unsuccessful legal defence in Barcelona and subsequent move to Valencia. He came to Brussels to speak at his own request. While I utterly oppose the business practices of Mr Lopez Paleaz, credit where it’s due for coming into the lions den to defend himself.

When asked to speak he immediately set about criticising StopECG, me, and Michael Plümpe (Who has to managed a German language website critical of the guides).

I had signed his form but never paid, and am apparently an anti-system activist pedalling defamation and insults, the website ties his company in with unconnected companies and even separate scams, while Plumpe associated with a known Paedophile. (These are all claims made on the German defamation site used by Ludenbach guides to attack those who criticize them.)

His clients are professionals, he gets requests to sign up and satisfied return customers. At one stage he held aloft the disputed form, pointing out that it required a signature, that the terms are on the back and that the price is in black. He stated that the form complies with the law (If not he would be punished) and that the client defence was free to the customer.

He stated that the ECG mails 6 and a half million forms per annum, 32 million in the last 6 years (This figure is far higher than I had estimated). He stated (To some mirth) that he complies with the law and has never been found guilty. He also caused amusement with his claim that he could not speak for the other guides (Common ownership of many of these guides being a proven fact)

Simon Busuttil MEP, who will soon author a report on the Petition asked
1) Why the form never mentions that it is an advertisement but the first letter sent to people who signed it does use the word?
2) Why the ECG had moved to Valencia?
3) Was the ECG found Guilty in Belgium?

Lopez Paleaz Replied
1) The form has the word ORDER in bold
2) Moved to Valencia because it was an up and coming town, (Admiral's Cup, Formula One, business friendly), No mention of his company’s conviction for misleading advertising in Barcelona!
3) The Rulings against the ECG are not firm rulings (Because the Brussles conviction is under Appeal) Later Mr. Lopez Paleaz’s own Lawyer would have to qualify this point because the Barcelona conviction is now confirmed with all appeal processes exhausted.

When asked why the ECG has such a poor relationship with its customers
Lopez Paleaz replied that the complaints were fuelled by the websites rather than genuine grievance.

Later the ECG’s lawyer would state that his client was not a crook, had traded in Spain (Barcelona and Valencia both being under Spanish Law) for over 10 years and had 46 employees. He said that the use of high pressure collection tactics and claims of imminent legal action did not constitute threats as the courts exist to resolve disputes.

Then came perhaps the most remarkable claim of the session, that the Majority of the ECG’s clients were satisfied.

In response I did not see it necessary to answer the personal attacks; however I did state one thing and I will repeat it here. I did indeed sign the ECG’s form and then refuse to pay, and if Mr. Lopez Paleaz believes I am in the wrong he should take me to court and sue me for breach of contract. In fact I want him to do this because I firmly believe that I could prove to the judge that the form I signed was misleading, was contrived with the intent to deceive me (Fraud) and is not a legally binding contract.

Regarding the claim that the Majority of the ECG’s customers are satisfied I have decided to institute the Lopez Paleaz Challenge, help me to find this silent majority! If you would like to assist in this please email me

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