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'Bogus' association meetings are on the increase, warns ICCA

Suppliers body under pressure to act as meetings industry ‘policeman’

Pictured: Marco Van Itterzon

‘Bogus’ association meetings are on the increase and pose a serious threat to the industry, according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).

Marco Van Itterzon, director of research, said he had made a ‘disturbing’ discovery while searching online for international association congresses to add to the ICCA database.

“More and more associations are having to flag up a warning on their website which says something like ‘This is the real website, be aware of this fake one’,” he said. “This is a serious problem."

Speaking at the 55th ICCA Congress, in Kuching, Sarawak, Van Itterzon said copy-cat meetings usually resulted in ‘a few people turning up in a hotel room with one person doing a presentation at a time’. And more often than not ‘none of the presentations had anything to do with each other’.

Other kinds of murky activity were reported.

Davi Kaur, Head of Congress Unit, European Cancer Organisation (ECCO), said delegates had written to her querying why some were being asked to pay more than others to attend the organisation's congress.

It transpired an ‘official looking congress site’ had been set up where delegates were prompted to pay the advertised fee, but then asked for a five per cent ‘handling fee’ on top.

Said Kaur: “I asked them to stop doing this, but when we consulted with our lawyers  it turned out they were not doing anything technically wrong, they were just acting as third-party agents.”

She said ECCO had taken steps to combat the problem by trying to boost its google rankings.

Most ‘bogus’ association meetings are operating in a grey legal area and delegates spoke of the difficulty in separating sincere, but poor quality meetings with ‘predatory’ or 'scam' meetings.

ICCA, which hosts the world’s biggest database of association meetings, came under pressure to act as policeman to the industry to stop its members (suppliers) being exposed to dubious organisations.

Alec Gilbert, CEO of the Adelaide Convention Centre, put it succinctly: “You have no choice”.

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