For journals to operate under an open access model, they are required to meet their expenses from sources other than subscriptions. In some cases this is accomplished with publishing fees, which authors pay after their publication has been accepted. With this type of model there can be a perception that it is possible to pay to publish and bypass any quality control. In fact, there are some examples of dubious practices amongst open access journals, but the majority are reputable with rigorous peer review processes. To counter these problems, open access publishers started an umbrella organization, OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association), with codes of practice and standards. To be a member in OASPA a publisher has to meet these standards.
If you are considering a different journal, we have put together a checklist of things to check before sending your article.
We often get questions about some specific cases. For example LAP Lambert Academic Publishing (also known as VDM Publishing House) who contact authors of Ph.D. (and even student theses) theses offering to publish the thesis at no cost to the author. On the positive side, LAP is a real operation and does exist, but... They do not do proof-reading, no editing, there is no reviewing and they take a very hard grip on the copyright for your work. Their distribution and marketing together with a high pricing policy usually means that no royalties are even paid (they have a minimum monthly royalty before they pay, one which the vast majority of academic books don't reach; even after that limit they offer only book vouchers until a quite high level is reached). Additionally, this publisher is not considered to be of academic standard and as such does not "count" in any academic evaluation exercise. See the following blogs for more discussion:
For journals and magazines there are also examples that at best can be said will not count for you as a researcher in any current evaluation exercise in Sweden:
Didaktisk Tidskrift (closed February 2014)
If you want to read more:
Declan Butler (2013). Investigating journals: The dark side of publishing, Nature, 495, 433–435
Declan Butler (2013). Sham journals scam authors: Con artists are stealing the identities of real journals to cheat scientists out of publishing fees, Nature 495, 421–422
SFWA, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (good guide and tips how to recognize a dubious journal/publisher)