CBC News has learned that no government agency has taken legal action to try to stop a Montreal-based telemarketing company accused of defrauding thousands of small businesses.
Express Transaction Services Inc. (ETS) and some affiliated companies face several charges under the federal Competition Act and Criminal Code, following an investigation and police raids at its Montreal facilities in 2007.
In fall 2011, the company was charged with fraud and violation under the federal Competition Act.
Several individuals linked to the companies also face charges of deceptive telemarketing and misleading representations under the Competition Act, and criminal fraud charges.
The Competition Bureau said ETS purposely sent out products to businesses even if they were never ordered. ETS then had its call centre make repeated phone calls to retrieve payment.
According to the bureau, the scheme made more than $170 million between 2001 and 2007. The federal Anti-Fraud Centre said thousands of victims were affected.
CBC News has learned that ETS continues to operate out of its Montreal offices, and small businesses across Canada are still receiving phone calls from the company.
In an email to CBC News, the Competition Bureau says it could ask a judge for an injunction to stop ETS and the other companies part of its operations.
When asked why it hasn't done that yet, a spokesperson said the bureau had no comment on the subject while the case is before the courts.
Officials from the Competition Bureau declined the CBC's requests for a formal interview.
Unprecedented telemarketing operation
- At the time of the 2007 raid, the Competition Bureau said ETS was the largest of its kind in Canada.
- Raids were carried out by the COLT unit (including RCMP, the Competition Bureau, Sûreté du Québec, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs Enforcement, the FBI, and Montreal Police).
- Four companies were charged: Express Transaction Services Inc., Mega Byte Information Inc., International Business Logistics Inc., and Comexco Management Inc.
- Victims were located across Canada, Europe and Central America.
Victimized businesses still getting calls
Brandon, Man., personal trainer Katy Unruh said every day she fears another call from ETS.
"When the phone rings I actually get nervous. Because I don't like to get yelled at," said Unruh.
Unruh said ETS sent her dramatically overpriced cash register paper that she never ordered.
She said the company refused to take the product back, and has been harassing her for a year and a half to pay for it, sometimes calling five or six times a day.
"Very rude and very insistent that I get it together and pay my bill," said Unruh.
The CBC has heard similar stories from at least six other small businesses across Canada.
Unruh said she told police about ETS, but it didn't stop the calls from coming.
We run an ethical business: Express Transaction Services
Éric Chenail, an ETS manager charged in Sept. 2011, told the CBC that his company will be closing at the end of February because of bad publicity.
When asked about recent complaints from small businesses, Chenail said they account for "0.001 per cent" of ETS's business, and that complaints are a normal part of running a business.
He said the business practices used by the company are sound, and would not comment further because the case is before the courts.
Chenail refused to do a recorded interview unless guaranteed unedited air time, which does not adhere to CBC's journalistic standards and policies.
Christian Paradis, federal Minister of Industry, refused to comment on the story.