How to get out of a Yell.com contract

25/11/2019, SEO

How to get out of a Yell.com contract


In February 2019, I published an article about Yell.com’s shady business practises. I described how thousands of small businesses are being pressured into missold 12-month contracts.

I have now spoken with hundreds of Yell customers who are extremely dissatisfied with the service they have received. This article provides a detailed guide on to how to terminate your contract and payments with Yell.

I must preface this article by making it clear that I am not a lawyer and that the information provided below does not constitute legal advice. I suggest you seek professional legal advice from a qualified solicitor before taking any action.

How does Yell stop you cancelling your agreement?

Yell will inform you that your agreement is a business-to-business contract to which the consumer protection laws do not apply. They may also warn you that you agreed to their terms and conditions when you signed up for their services and are now locked into a 12-month contract.

In fact, all contracts between a business or a consumer must be “fair and equitable” to both parties in English law even if you have agreed to their terms and conditions.  Besides, you are not legally bound by a contract in which the seller has failed to provide the service as described or where the service was missold.

Is Yell in breach of contract?

The sales call

Your first contact with Yell is likely to have been a phone call from a Yell agent based in their Dublin call centre. The agent may have obtained your details when you registered your business for a free listing in Yell’s online directory.  Yell also use local agents to notify the call centre when a new business has opened up in their area.

The agent will have spent considerable time with you on the phone persuading you that you need to enhance your online reputation, create a website and improve your visibility on Google. The agent will have made impressive claims about how they have helped other local competitors and assure you that your phone will soon be ringing with customer calls if you follow his/her advice.

The agent is likely to have persuaded you to use the following Yell services:

  • Promoted listing on Yell.com (appears above the free listings)
  • Reputation Manager
  • Website design and hosting

You may also have been sold the following additional services:

  • Marketing video
  • Google Advertising
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Display Advertising
  • Social Media Advertising

The agent is likely to have set up a screen share with you to show you examples of other Yell customers in your area.

At the end of the call, you will have been led to an online form with a tick box confirming your agreement of their terms and a request to set up a direct debit.

It is also likely that the agent offered a discount on one or more of their services and implied that you were receiving a “special deal”. They may have warned you that you will lose that discount if you don’t take up their offer immediately or that one of your competitors may take your ad’s slot.

Yell’s services

If you have been using Yell’s services for some time, it is likely that you have not seen the results the sales agent claimed.

A survey of over 100 Yell customers reveals they have received very few or no new customers using Yell’s services, despite paying an average of £200 per month. Many also complain that their advertisements do not appear in the agreed positions or locations.

There are several reasons why you may not have achieved positive results from Yell’s services:

Yell advertising

Despite the agent informing you that your Yell listing would appear in a specific position in your chosen areas, this is not always the case. There has been a known bug on the Yell website and app that returns different results depending on how the user selects their location.

For example, performing a search for plumbers using my own village as the location delivers the following results:

 

If I perform that same search using the “use my current location” option provided in Yell’s app, I see an entirely different set of results with all of the sponsored listings removed.

Yell has been aware of this bug for over a year and have neither fixed it nor refunded any of the businesses paying for a “guaranteed” position. When Yell customers do complain, they are offered more Yell services as compensation.

Google Advertising via Yell

In addition to the fees Yell charge for managing a Google advertising campaign, they also add a 40% mark-up to the cost at which you could buy the same advertising directly from Google. As a result, your budget is quickly depleted, and your Google ads will stop showing.

All campaign management and customer services are outsourced to a third party agency based in Southeast Asia who will have little understanding of your business or your customers.

Yell websites

Yell websites are built by an external agency based in the Philippines. The sites are built using a basic Duda template that you could configure yourself for £11 per month including hosting.

Yell does not allow you to update the website yourself and claim ownership of all content, templates and images. Should you decide to terminate your contract with Yell you will lose your website and all of its content.

Reputation Manager

This service provides a means for you to collect online reviews and to list your site in free online directories.

A free listing in an online directory is unlikely to provide any benefit to your business. You could easily request online reviews yourself by providing your customers with the relevant link to your Google or Trustpilot profile.

Yell staff have been known to leave fake reviews for businesses and manipulate their own reviews on Trustpilot.

Search Engine Optimisation

As explained in my article on Yell’s SEO services, the methods Yell use to improve your visibility on Google are in breach of Google’s guidelines. They are more likely to get your site penalised by Google than to improve your Google ranking.

Are Yell’s services unfit for purpose?

If you attempt to cancel your Yell contract, you are likely to be refused on the basis that you agreed to a 12-month business-to-business contract.  You will be told this even if you try to cancel within minutes of the sales call.

Irrespective of Yell’s terms, there is a strong basis on which to argue that your contract is void. If you cancel before any of the services have been provided Yell cannot legally commit you to pay more than any costs they have incurred.

According to one Yell whistle-blower, “Yell’s contracts are not worth the paper they are written on”.

How to cancel your Yell contract

Note: I do not recommend that your complaint should be based on a lack of customer enquiries. It is unlikely that the sales agent made any specific claims in this regard.

My advice is as follows:

1) Send a letter by recorded delivery to Yell’s head office containing the following information:

  1. State why you believe Yell to be in breach of contract. Explain how and why the services were missold and are unfit for purpose.
  2. Explain that you were given insufficient time to examine the terms and conditions during the sales call and that it was not made clear to you that you were committing to a 12-month contract.
  3. State that you consider the contract to now be void and request that all services are terminated with immediate effect.

3) Insist that all further correspondence must be in writing only and that any attempt by Yell to engage debt collectors will be treated as harassment.

4) Request a copy of all personal data, call recordings and information Yell have stored on you (as is your legal right under GDPR). Explain that failure to provide this information within 30 days will result in an immediate complaint to the ICO.

5) Do not discuss the matter with Yell by phone. If you receive a letter from their debt collectors (Moorcroft), send a letter to Moorcroft advising them that you are in dispute with Yell and that any further contact will be treated as harassment for which you will hold them liable.

6) Cancel all direct debits (you may have multiple) with Yell and refuse any offers of compensation in the form of discounted advertising or other Yell services.

7) Send a copy of all correspondence to Yell’s CEO at claire.miles@yell.com

Don’t panic!

I understand that you may be worried Yell will take legal action against you, send debt collectors or place a black mark on your credit record.

I have spoken to hundreds of Yell’s customers and have never heard of a single case in which Yell took a customer to court.  They would need to hire expensive lawyers to pursue any legal action and will know that they are unlikely to win. They will not want their contracts tested in court.

In the unlikely event that Yell do place a black mark on your credit record, contact Equifax and explain that you are in dispute with Yell and would like your credit records updated.

Debt collectors are legally forbidden from pursuing you for a debt that is in dispute.

If you follow this advice, my experience has been that Yell will agree to cancel your contract but are unlikely to refund you for any money already paid. If you wish to claim monetary compensation, you will need to issue civil proceedings against Yell in the small claims court.

If you do decide to take legal action against Yell for breach of contract, please contact me. I will be happy to provide evidence that may be useful in your case.