Profit margins are narrow enough for small businesses these days without a company charging $50 for an unnecessary service.
So the Rogue Desk had an easy task this week when it learned about the Assumed Business Name Renewal Service.
The Keizer-based company sends official-looking notices to businesses that are due to renew their names with the state. The biannual registration costs $50 and can be done in less than a minute online. But ABNRS's notice strongly suggests recipients do it through them for $100.
Camilla Welhaven, who owns Ain't Misbehaving Dog Training in Southeast Portland, thought the notice was "the State of Oregon contracting [the work] out" because it looked so legit, and because it was her first renewal notice (the actual renewal notice from the state arrived two weeks later).
She's not a lone victim. Peter Threlkel, director of the state's Business Registry Office, estimates about 400 of the 6,000 businesses—about 6.7 percent—that register each month are falling victim to ABNRS.
That's $20,000 a month for ABNRS. The secretary of state knows about this and has a "BEWARE" posting on its website with information about ABNRS.
ABNRS didn't return calls seeking comment.
But Threlkel says ABNRS has "found a loophole" that lets it continue because the state of Oregon "protects commercial speech the same as free speech" and ABNRS isn't necessarily lying in its materials. In the smaller print at the bottom of the notice, ABNRS writes that its service "has not been approved or endorsed by any government agency."
Threlkel suggests victims call ABNRS and demand a refund, because "[I] understand that [ABNRS] has been fairly good about doing that."
Welhaven tried that and says ABNRS hung up on her.