Mystery shopper Market Trends Inc. is going international.

The Bellevue, Wash., company has teamed with a French firm to sell mystery shopping services in Europe.

Through a joint venture with Paris-based Audit & Conceil en Communication, Market Trends will sell mystery shopping services to financial, telecommunications, consumer goods, and utility companies. It will aim particularly at European banks.

Market Trends attracted notice last year when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. picked it to conduct a survey of investment product sales practices at banks. Results of that survey are expected to be released in September.

Announcing its expansion plans in a press statement, Market Trends said banks in both France and England are becoming much more interested in mystery shopping services.

In this way, they are following the lead of American banks, which use Market Trends and other companies to gauge compliance with fair-lending rules and investment products sales guidelines, as well as quality of customer service.

In mystery shopping studies, professional researchers pose as customers to gauge how an organization deals with the public.

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