Companies Convincing Other Businesses to Pay For A Freebie
By Amanda Taylor, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Several companies, including at least one in the metro, have been charging for something businesses can get for free. The scheme first surfaced last year, but it appears the companies are changing their approach by becoming more aggressive.
Ivan Holmes is no dummy. He just started his own business, has a PhD, and at one time headed up Oklahoma's Democratic Party. That's why even he was shocked when he almost fell for a losing deal.
"I just started this business a few months, and bam, I get two different pieces in the mail," Holmes said.
One letter came with the words "suspension of coverage" on the envelope. Inside, the letter alerted Holmes that revised Oklahoma and federal labor law notices must be posted in the workplace, which is true. The letter went on to instruct Holmes to return their notice with a check for $25 to purchase the posters or risk a $17,000 fine.
"It's kind of intimidating when you look at that. No one wants to end up paying fines or get in trouble for something like this," Holmes said.
But before he ordered the posters, he called the Oklahoma Department of Labor, and apparently others have as well.
"We're still getting angry phone calls thinking we're the ones sending them," said Lloyd Fields, Oklahoma Labor Commissioner.
Fields said it's not his agency, but about a half dozen companies trying to make a buck.
"This is not really a scam because what they're doing is legal. They can sell that product, but it's just taking advantage of people in business who's trying to do what's right," Fields said.
The posters the companies are selling are actually free. The scheme was first reported last year, but Fields said the letters are now becoming more demanding with their wording. Some are charging up to $150 and fooling more savvy business owners.
Bottom line, Fields said what the businesses are doing isn't illegal, just overpriced.
Last year, the main difference was the posters they were selling were laminated, where the ones you print off online are not. However, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission now has laminated ones, which they will mail to business for free.