In February 2019, I published an article about Yell.com’s shady business practises. I described how thousands of small businesses have been pressured into marketing services contracts by Yell.
I have spoken with hundreds of Yell customers, all 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. You may wish to seek professional legal advice from a qualified solicitor before taking further action.
Yell will inform you that your agreement is a business-to-business contract to which consumer protection laws do not apply. They will tell you that you agreed to their terms and conditions when you signed up and are now locked into a 12-month contract with no cancellation or cooling-off period. If you do try to cancel your contract, Yell will threaten to contact debt collectors and place a black mark on your credit records. My recommendation is not to allow yourself be bullied by Yell.
Whatever Yell might tell you, all contracts between a business or a consumer must be “fair and equitable” to both parties in English law. You cannot be legally bound by any contract in which the service is not fit for purpose or if the service was missold.
According to one Yell whistleblower, “Yell’s contracts are not worth the paper they are written on”. I have to agree.
If you are a sole trader you are protected under the Consumer Credit Act 2006.
This Act states that you must receive certain information from Yell before entering into a credit agreement so that you know exactly what you are signing up for.
You also have the right to a “cooling-off” period and your cancellation rights must be included within their copy of the credit agreement which must, in any case, be sent within 7 days of signing the agreement.
As a sole trader, you are entitled to a cooling off-period – or right to cancel the agreement within 14 days if the agreement was made over the phone, by post or online.
It is highly likely that none of this information was provided to your by Yell either before, during or after the sales call.
Your first contact with Yell was likely to have been a phone call from a sales agent based from their Dublin call centre. The agent will have spent a 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 your 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 buy the following Yell services:
You may also have been sold one or more of the following services:
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 if you don’t take up their offer immediately you will lose that discount or one of your competitors may take your ad slot.
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:
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.
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 useless 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. The management fee is typically hidden from their monthly reports.
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 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 the content.
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 will not 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.
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 loss Yell have incurred.
I have heard from several small business owners who complain that they received no customer enquiries after using Yell’s services. They were then persuaded by Yell’s agents to spend even more money on Yell products.
You are only likely to be successful in a claim against Yell if you can show that their services were missold, not as described or unfit for purpose. Making a claim on the basis that you did not receive any customer enquiries is unlikely to succeed.
Yell’s sales agents rarely ever make a guarantee that you will receive a specific number of enquiries. There are many factors outside of Yell’s control that will determine whether a customer decides to contact you.
For this reason, I do not recommend that you make a claim against Yell simply because you are unhappy with the number of customer enquiries you received or were sold services that you later regretted buying.
While I do sympathise how easy it is to succumb to the high-pressure sales techniques used by Yell’s agents, the principle in law is “Let the buyer beware”.
My advice is as follows:
1) Send a letter by recorded delivery to Yell’s head office containing the following information:
2) 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.
3) Request a copy of all personal data, call recordings and information Yell have stored about 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.
4) Do not discuss the matter with Yell by phone. If you receive a letter from their debt collectors (Moorcroft), send them a letter advising that you are in dispute with Yell and that any further contact will be treated as harassment for which you will hold them legally liable.
5) 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.
6) Send a copy of all correspondence to Yell’s CEO at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can download my template cancellation letter to which you simply need to add your personal information.
I understand that you may be worried about Yell taking legal action against you, sending in debt collectors or placing 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 or placed a black mark on their credit file. They would need to hire expensive lawyers to pursue any legal action and they know that they would be unlikely to win a case. I can assure you that Yell do not want their contracts tested in court.
In the very unlikely event that Yell do attempt to place a black mark on your credit record, contact Equifax immediately and explain that you are in dispute with Yell and want your credit records updated.
Debt collectors are legally forbidden from pursuing you for a debt while it 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 do wish to claim monetary compensation, you will probably need to issue civil proceedings against Yell in the small claims court.
Please read this note from a Yell client who successfully managed to get her contract cancelled:
To update anyone that needs encouraging to pursue their complaint. After many months without progress, I finally complained to the CEO after our contract wasn’t cancelled despite several requests (we eventually cancelled the Direct Debit) and were subsequently billed for three months.
I heard nothing back from the CEO but re-sent my email attaching a copy of the debt collection agency letter we had received despite having an open dispute.
Today we received a call from someone in the Customer Satisfaction Team. We have had the outstanding ‘debt’ written off and a refund for the month that Yell wrongly took by Direct Debit. I wasn’t going to be bullied by Yell or scared into paying after it was referred to their debt collectors. Although it took hours of my time to resolve, it’s important to show them they cannot bully customers into paying. And for anyone still dealing with a complaint, don’t give up! We must be heard!
We are collecting evidence of Yell’s malpractice and misselling for a potential group action claim. If you wish to submit evidence to this claim, please use this form.
Please join the Facebook group, “I Hate Yell” started by the wonderful Stella Photis for individual advice.