Association Event Network December 2019 | Page 18

Brightelm Column Dear Rob, 18 We’re having some problems with ‘copycat’ conferences – that is, conferences run by dubious organisations that give the impression of being the official association congress. They are duping delegates to pay registration fees with the promise of publishing abstracts, and damaging the reputation of our association. How can we deal with this, without resorting to legal action? Catherine, London THIS IS A TRICKY and all too common issue, and the problem is getting worse. Nowadays, it is relatively easy, cheap and quick to produce a believable website, and use Google’s Adwords to put it at the top of a search. This can make it difficult for even discerning delegates to tell the difference between the real thing and a fake. Some larger organisations have taken legal action against sites purporting to be ‘official’, but most associations won’t have Brightelm’s Rob Eveleigh provides some Agony Aunt advice for an association eventprof facing an attack of the clones the resources to pursue what I imagine to be fairly lengthy legal action. So, with this in mind, I’ve put together a list of suggested actions you can take to try to shut these operators down. Awareness – make sure that your community is aware of the issue. Be up front and communicate it to your members so that they can be vigilant. Also, set up a reporting mechanism for these ‘copycat’ sites as people come across them - usually a form on your website. Do your own, regular policing. At least once a month, conduct a search using your keywords. This will help identify if anyone is trying to steal your delegates. Trading standards – if the website is UK- based (check out to find out who owns a domain) you can report them to trading standards for fraud. You’ll need to contact the office that is closest to the address where the website is based. Credit card merchants – if the website takes credit cards for payment, you can report them to the merchant or payment gateway they are using for fraud. I’ve not done this myself, but I hear that it can result fairly quickly in turning off a revenue stream. If you turn off the income, it’s likely that the problem will disappear fairly quickly. There’s no easy way to stop this behaviour, but by being vigilant and understanding your rights, you can police and keep on top of the issue. Be prepared! Communicate the issue to your members, so that they can be vigilant Set up a reporting mechanism, such as a form on your own website At least once a month, do your own keyword search