Wyvern Media accused of charging for unauthorised adverts
A Midlands-based publishing company has been accused of taking unauthorised payments from advertisers, after an investigation by BBC Inside Out.
Business owners said the Wyvern Media (WM) group has billed them repeatedly for unwanted adverts.
One said she had to close her business after being charged more than £5,000 and another said had more than £500 in bills after taking adverts worth £40.
WM said it has never been its practice to take unauthorised payments.
Jean Wood, a dog breeder in Lincolnshire, agreed to pay for two adverts in company publications to sell some puppies, but claims she was charged for adverts in other publications.
"I had two invoices for the two I'd paid for, for £40," she said. "And that was okay but then I started getting invoices with "paid" on them that I hadn't asked for.
"I'd got six payments off of my credit cards that I hadn't authorised and so they'd taken over £500."
Bespoke travel business owner Polly Zabari claims she has had to close her business to pay charges of over £5,000.
She agreed to sign up to a single advertisement. However, after becoming confused by a deluge of phone calls and emails from various companies from the WM group, she discovered that the company claimed she had signed up to a total of more than £5,000 in advertising.
She said she never saw a published copy or receipt in relation to these orders and the charges led to her being forced to close down her company.
Mrs Zabari's bank has now reimbursed her after she lodged a successful complaint.
On its website, WM says it runs 28 newspaper titles, with offices across the country, including Coventry, Leamington Spa and Rugby.
An ex-employee, who did not wish to be named, sold adverts for one newspaper for several months and confirmed she had received complaints from unhappy advertisers.
"Calls started coming in from customers that... I knew our office had sold to, claiming that certain payments had been taken out of their bank accounts without authorisation," she said.
"Basically we all kept our heads down, we didn't dare say anything because, you know, we'd be out of a job there and then."
In response to the allegations, WM managing director Jonathan Rivers, of Coleshill in the West Midlands, said it "has never been" the company's practice to take unauthorised payments from customers.
He said the publications now record all sales calls, and complaints have dropped to three or four a month, out of several thousand sales.
Mr Rivers adds that if customers feel money has been taken without proper authorisation, the payments can be reclaimed through their credit cards.