MerchantCircle Pays for Its Marketing Tactics

Filed in Local Search by Matt McGee on October 1, 2010 6 Comments

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.

Comments (6)

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  1. YS says:

    …and I hope that BBB has the same coming to it as well.

    I get a call from them at least once a month saying that there have been reviews left about my contracting business – while in reality, there have been none left – and that I better sign up quick ($500) to control my reputation. This has been happening for the past 2 years. I checked their site – no reviews under my business. Not a single one.

    The BBB is just another business trying to survive. Some customers know that they are just a business and some think they are the legit business police. There certainly is a benefit of your brand being associated with their highly recognizable brand, but I will NOT succumb to their shady telemarketing practices!

  2. Matt, I was wondering if you’d heard of similar marketing tactics from About a week ago, one of my clients called me to say that he’d gotten five calls from prospective customers around Texas looking for zoysia grass. My client has a turfgrass sod farm in Colorado and only distributes in Colorado and he doesn’t sell zoysia. All of these callers told my client that they’d found him on — several in San Antonio, one in San Angelo, etc. So I Googled “zoysia grass” in those areas and no listings appeared. I also Googled my client in Colorado and there is a unclaimed listing for him, but it’s on page 4 of the SERPS.

    So I Googled “HotFrog marketing calls and midway down the second page of results, I found a bunch of complaints from business owners about HotFrog marketing calls that started as soon as they’d claimed their HotFrog listings.

    Perhaps HotFrog is borrowing some pages from the old Merchant Circle playbook. Have you seen similar “prospective customer” marketing calls said to be generated from listings?

  3. robert jaron says:

    I did not request my business posting on merchant circle. However, they took it upon them selves to do so. And, since I moved over 2 years ago, I made attempts to get my address corrected. Jumped through their hoops, no response, no change.
    Called them, no help. “sign in and follow the intstructions” blah blah. Tried again, no response from them. It’s been 2 YEARS! Still WRONG address of my company and yes, people had gone to the wrong address and not found me! I received phone calls.
    Now I am attempting to remove the listing all together. Waste of precious time. Wouldn’t list with these guys if they paid me!

  4. J.D. Tackett says:

    Dear Sir,

    My father owns his own business and unfortunately this company has taken it upon themselves to list him without permission. It seems nearly impossible, perhaps it almost is, to get his listing removed. We would appreciate any suggestions you may have.


    J.D. Tackett

  5. Frank Carson says:

    @Mr. Hackett,

    We are attempting to do the same thing, as we have been listed incorrectly with Merchantcircle and wish to be removed. We found a removal form that they say is required to remove a listing. It is located at We have sent ours in and documented it. If they fail to honor it we will then consider our other options in getting it removed. Thankfully, MC will see far less traffic to their listings with the new Google “comment farm” algorithm. At least our erroneous listing will be seen less often. Good luck to you.

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