A Melbourne phone book publisher created a fake debt collection agency to intimidate advertisers into coughing up cash they didn't owe.
Local Blue Pages, also known as Bluey's Pages, harassed four advertisers between 2014 and 2016 by creating a fake debt agency.
None of the advertisers, including a masseuse and a plumber, were liable for payments of between $1500 and $3500.
The fake "STP Collections" agency also misrepresented and overstated the consequences of failing to pay the debts, and served the victims with completed Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal applications to give the impression of legal action.
Consumer Affairs Victoria started investigating after complaints were made to VCAT, and took Bluey's and its sole director Les Papaioannou to court.
"Local Blue Pages repeatedly and aggressively pursued small business owners using tactics intended to intimidate them into paying debts they did not necessarily owe," CAV director Simon Cohen said in a statement on Monday.
"The threats made by Local Blue Pages undoubtedly caused a great deal of stress to victims."
Papaioannou and Local Blue Pages each pleaded guilty to four charges of undue coercion under section 168 of the Australian Consumer Law (Victoria).
The company was fined $40,000 and the court handed a $5000 fine to Papaioannou at a joint hearing in Heidelberg Magistrates' Court on May 16.