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Attention Managers:
Beware of profiteer database users groups


Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

There is a disturbing trend in the database industry for profiteers to create "fake" database users groups in-order to entice altruistic speakers and make profits. 

These for-profit companies are creating legitimate-looking web sites with links to real database users groups, acting as-if they are sponsoring an educational event to raise funds for their membership.

Traditionally, a database users group is a collection of like-minded database professionals who get together to share their experiences.  A real database users group has these characteristics:

  • They have an elected management, made-up of un-paid volunteers.

  • They have a not-for-profit or charity organization status.

  • They have regularly-schedule free meetings of the membership.

  • They have volunteer speakers and volunteer session organizers.

  • Profits are used solely for the benefit of the organization.

I have been deceived by requests from legitimate-sounding groups, asking "please help out our group", only to find-out that we were volunteering our time to support a money-making deal.

Legally, the crux of the issue is whether the term "user group" implies a group of users (i.e. a an association of actual users with a not-for-profit status). 

For Oracle Users Groups, Oracle Corporation has a page listing events from Oracle users groups that are composed of volunteers.  I've also compiled a list of Oracle users groups here, but you should carefully check the web pages of all alleged user groups.  Don't be fooled by lots of link to legitimate users groups (like IOUG, ODTUG), as they may not be aware of the group.

If you feel that you have been victimized by fraudulent representation by a database user group you may have several legal recourses.

  • Criminal Remedies - I've got a call into the Attorney General in several state to see if these practices violate the full-disclosure requirements of consumer protection laws and deceptive practice statutes.
     

  • Civil Remedies - I've also spoken with an attorney who says that many courts might award refunds to corporations and individuals who felt that they were victims of deception.  Your perception that your money was going to support a user group may be enough to win damages in civil court against a user group that is not really a group of users.
     


 

 

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