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Judge orders VeriSign to stop ad campaign

By Sean Puffy Combs in News
Thu May 16, 2002 at 11:38:57 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

A U.S. court on Tuesday issued an order against Internet naming giant VeriSign Inc. to immediately cease a direct-mail campaign that used what a rival called deceptive advertising to poach its customers.

Remember all the hurumph recently about Verisign sending out "Renewal Notices" to customers who had registered domain names with other registars? Well, a judge has issued an order forcing Verisign to immediately stop sending the notices to non-customers, labeling them as "deceptive".

I can think of numerous similiar advertising schemes, such as large "Music Houses" like BMG spamming mailboxes with "20 CD's for 1 cent!". They surely know that there are some saps out there that don't realize all the hidden strings such as shipping and handling charges, and furter obligations to buy CD's at bloated prices.

What other instances of deceptive marketing can you think of that pervade today's marketplace?


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Should advertisers have the right to use "deceptive" marketing to sell products and services?
o No, they are preying on customers ignorance 68%
o Maybe, it should be judged on a case-by-case basis 17%
o Yes, deceptive marketing is only "deceptive" to idiots 13%

Votes: 95
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Judge orders VeriSign to stop ad campaign | 29 comments (18 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
Deceptive (4.81 / 11) (#1)
by premier on Wed May 15, 2002 at 06:58:20 PM EST

I think it should be judged on a case by case basis.  In this instance, I think Verisign was clearly using deceptive tactics by trying to fool people into believing they were already customers, and would lose their current services if they didn't renew with Verisign.

The judge made the right decision, IMHO.

bmg (4.33 / 3) (#5)
by athagon on Wed May 15, 2002 at 07:40:38 PM EST

The only thing is, BMG actually is a good deal (provided you have a lot of CDs you want, as I do.) I should know--I'm a member. Sure, it's a little annoying to decline 1 CD once a month, but the damn-good prices and monthly deals (like my deal this month: buy 1 get 3 free (+shipping)) outweighs the slight annoyance. Plus, BMG was the only major CD company to sign with Napster (AFAIK)--you gotta give 'em credit for that.

"sign" with Napster? (none / 0) (#6)
by tps12 on Wed May 15, 2002 at 08:02:52 PM EST

Didn't they buy Napster?

[ Parent ]
Um.... (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by Greyjack on Wed May 15, 2002 at 08:40:49 PM EST

Not quite.

Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

[ Parent ]
Apples and oranges (5.00 / 11) (#9)
by Anonymous Commando on Wed May 15, 2002 at 09:13:19 PM EST

Comparing the deceptive advertising being practiced by Verisign to BMG or Columbia House doesn't fly, sorry. While there may be "some saps out there that don't realize all the hidden strings", I would say that "Joe Sixpack" generally understands how CD / movie / book clubs work.

Domain names are something else. Imagine this - Joe Sixpack has a small company, decided to get a domain a while ago for the company web site and e-mail address. Joe called his ISP, who are either part of something like OpenSRS, or else have an account at Bulk Register, and they registered the domain for him, with Joe as the admin contact. Today, Joe gets a notice from VeriSign, saying that renewal fees for his domain are due (or at least that's what it looks like). Joe knows about VeriSign - after all, he reads Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal - looks legit, pays it (or sends the notice to accounting to pay it).

This is not unusual - this happens every day. I know - I'm the ISP in this case. We register our customers domains at BulkRegister. We've seen pretty much all the notices, etc. that you can find at domainscams.com. We've had some of our more astute customers forward these notices to us. Unfortunately, many of them only forward it to us after they've sent in their payment.

If I haven't convinced you that this is an invalid comparison, try this simple test. Tell a friend that you got a bunch of CDs from Columbia House for almost free, but you're pissed that they're making you pay shipping and handling, and you still have to buy a bunch more from them. Tell a different friend that you paid what you thought was an invoice for a domain name, but it turned out to be a "slam" tactic. In both cases, your friend will probably react with surprise - but in the first case, it will be because your friend didn't think you were that fscking stupid.
Corporate Jenga™: You take a blockhead from the bottom and you put him on top...

Book clubs (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by epepke on Thu May 16, 2002 at 04:02:54 PM EST

Furthermore, book clubs aren't that bad. The prices are reasonably competitive, and you can sometimes get special editions more easily than you can in a book store or via amazon.com.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
The devil made me do it (4.00 / 4) (#10)
by Tatarigami on Wed May 15, 2002 at 09:22:18 PM EST

They surely know that there are some saps out there that don't realize all the hidden strings such as shipping and handling charges, and furter obligations to buy CD's at bloated prices.

No doubt they do, but they also know some people will sign anything without even glancing at the fine-print -- and they won't mend their ways no matter what kind of encouragement they get.

I don't believe any large, visible company with a future actively targets these saps. I'm sure BMG prefer the normal people who just can't resist a bargain, and decide that staying in the club is less trouble than getting out of it afterwards. My personal experience is that the 'what the heck did I just agree to' crowd end up costing more in wasted time and bad publicity than they earn you, but exactly how far do you go to protect potential customers from their own dribbling imbecility?

Music clubs? (4.00 / 4) (#11)
by /dev/trash on Wed May 15, 2002 at 09:44:12 PM EST

I've quite enjoyed being a BMG music club member. Where else can you get 4 CD's for 32 bucks?

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
Almost anywhere? (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by gordonjcp on Thu May 16, 2002 at 05:26:22 AM EST

Decent record shops for example?

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.

[ Parent ]
such as? (none / 0) (#24)
by /dev/trash on Thu May 16, 2002 at 02:14:18 PM EST

Coconuts? Sam Goody? Wal-mart?

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
Depends on your ideals really. (4.50 / 2) (#17)
by tombuck on Thu May 16, 2002 at 06:03:59 AM EST

Yeah, join a music club, but don't expect any of the money you pay to them to go to the artist.

I think it's because record companies can send the CDs etc. to the clubs as "promotional" items, and thus the artist never sees a penny.

But hey, if you throwing your money soley at the record companies, that's your deal.

Give me yer cash!
[ Parent ]

Wrong. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by BadDoggie on Thu May 16, 2002 at 09:25:15 AM EST

These are not promo copies, which are "illegal" to sell. There's even a little stamp that says "Not for Sale" or something similar. Lots of second-hand shops sell these, and occasionally they get a visit from a record company suit who goes through the store and takes ALL of these.

Record clubs are a way to easily sell stuff from a known group, mass-market and advertise some no-name hopeful and move a load of old stock out.

Groups get a reduced royalty for all kinds of crappy reasons, such as the record being sold in a foreign territory or on a "new" media (CD, MD, CrystalPolkaDotStick, whatever). If the CD is sold through a record club, the rate is reduced, and by a larger percentage than the discount given by the label to the club. The major labels cross-license their catalogs to record clubs, such as Columbia House and BMG Direct.

Compare the UPC code on a store-nbought and a club-cought CD. Unless the record company is moving old stock, there's a difference in the last digit and you'll see text such as "Manufactured [by Columbia House] under license", so Britney will only get a $0.43 instead of $1.17 for that copy.


Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.
[ Parent ]

and I care? (none / 0) (#23)
by /dev/trash on Thu May 16, 2002 at 02:14:14 PM EST

Life sucks. It's hard. Don't sign a record contract and then whine that you are poor and bankrupt.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
Sounds like the learnt from Australia (4.66 / 3) (#13)
by seeS on Thu May 16, 2002 at 12:07:34 AM EST

A dubious register in Australia tried the same trick. They'd send out things that look like renewal invoices to people who had no previous contact with them even though the domains had a good few months on them. Luckily after months and months of complaints our competition watchdog is starting to do something

Domain name scams, we've done them all over here, Verisign should go on a fact-finding mission to Australia and learn from the masters of domain name deception. Use of whois records by the hosting company? done that too.
Where's a policeman when you need one to blame the World Wide Web?

Here too (none / 0) (#28)
by holdfast on Thu May 16, 2002 at 04:30:22 PM EST

We have had a similar scam in the UK too.

Is there some global alliance of internet hucksters?

"Holy war is an oxymoron."
Lazarus Long
[ Parent ]
bmg not too bad (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by Rainy on Thu May 16, 2002 at 01:23:31 AM EST

There you basically pay about $3.50 per cd if I remember right. Their selection is very poor, though. Generally it's a fine deal for cash-strapped people like students or kids. I think this verisign thing is far more deceptive, because a person may just think "oh, I better renew my domains" and send money, while with BMG people know they're signing up for something and you have to be retarded to think you'll get 11 cds that sell for $15 each for one cent. IOW it does attract attention but it does not actually fool anyone.
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
Me? (1.50 / 2) (#20)
by krek on Thu May 16, 2002 at 12:23:17 PM EST

I personaly, truely detest negative billing scams.

haha (1.00 / 3) (#29)
by j0s)( on Fri May 17, 2002 at 05:21:42 AM EST

so do i. damn bills

-- j0sh -- of course im over-dramatizing my statements, but thats how its done here, sensationalism, otherwise you wouldnt read it.

[ Parent ]
Judge orders VeriSign to stop ad campaign | 29 comments (18 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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