There was a time, in the first couple years that this blog existed, that the primary keyword driving traffic here was “merchant circle.” Small business owners would get a strange phone call from MerchantCircle, go to Google and type the company name, and land on my old post, Strange goings-on with Merchant Circle. They’d read the post and many added their comments … almost 200 comments on that post right now. I’ll be adding one soon with a link to the post you’re reading now, because those business owners might want to know that MerchantCircle has paid a pretty steep price for its marketing tactics.
Mike Blumenthal writes that the company has paid $900,000 to settle a consumer protection lawsuit filed by Santa Clara County.
The District Attorney alleged that from 2006 to 2008, MerchantCircle engaged in improper automated telemarketing campaigns which violated California “live voice” requirement for automated calls. Some of those calls also contained unverified statements that the MerchantCircle website had reviews, ratings, or video footage of the recipient business.
Hopefully this brings to a close all the complaints from small business owners, at least about MerchantCircle’s marketing. I still don’t trust any of their self-reported membership stats, which were largely inflated by what the District Attorney’s announcement called “unlawful marketing practices.” But what’s done is done. And let’s hope it stays done.