Many Croatian entrepreneurs have recently received a letter urging them to apply for a so-called EBN (European business number). The letter contains a form with a fictitious deadline and was sent to a large number of recipients to multiple countries, this time particularly targeting Dutch companies. It is not the first time that the Hamburg-based company DAD Deutscher Adressdienst GmbH has sent such forms throughout Europe. The Croatian Chamber of Commerce already reacted to such a scam in August 2016 when it published a detailed warning about the EBN number.
What is the scam about?
DAD Deutscher Adressdienst GmbH sends a letter to an entrepreneur's physical address, with an invitation to submit – within an indicated deadline – a confirmation of the accuracy of the company's data (company name, address, VAT ID number, etc.). The entrepreneur is invited to return the signed form, enclosed to the letter, to the address of DAD Deutscher Adressdienst GmbH. The invitation refers to certain legal provisions and the obligation of aligning the VAT ID number with the European legislation, creating thus the illusion of an official EU registry. But in fact, by signing such a form, the company enters into a contractual obligation for an entirely useless service (inscription into the private registry of a German company). The service is quite expensive and often provided for more than one year. Terminating such a contract, especially retroactively, tends to be very laborious.
DAD Deutscher Adressdienst GmbH is most persistent in this scam, but it is not the only entity involved in it. The Dutch company, EU Business Register, and the Swiss company, Intercable Verlag for its registry Global (European) Internet Register, are known for such scams and are not new to Croatia.
Croatian companies should be reminded that the VAT ID number in Croatia is assigned by the Croatian Tax Administration and the existence and validity of any VAT ID number within EU can be at any time verified online, without a fee, at the official EU registry website, VIES (VAT Information Exchange System), available at ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/vies. The Croatian Tax Administration has a legal obligation to exchange VAT ID numbers' information with EU bodies and no further action is required from entrepreneurs in this sense. The Tax Administration itself has repeated this warning and published it on August 14 2017 on its own website.
The warnings issued by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce can be accessed from the below links (in Croatian only): www.hgk.hr/upozorenje-european-business-number-ebn and www.hgk.hr/upozorenje-poduzetnicima-cuvajte-se-prevare-pri-popunjavanju-obrazaca-za-poslovne-adresare.