Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that the Oregon Department of Justice sued one of the nation's largest sellers of magazine subscriptions. Named in the lawsuit, filed today in Marion County Circuit Court, is Publishers Clearing House, a New York limited partnership that mails promotional sweepstakes through direct mail solicitations to millions of households across the United States, including Oregon.
In addition to selling magazine subscriptions, Publishers Clearing House sells many other items of merchandise including collectible figurines, sports memorabilia, coins, household items, personal care items, books and tapes.
The lawsuit alleges that in conducting promotional sweepstakes, Publishers Clearing House makes wilful misrepresentations to Oregon consumers in order to convince them to participate in sweepstakes, purchase products, or order subscriptions. Specifically, the Oregon Department of Justice alleges that Publishers Clearing House manipulates its promotional materials in a manner intended to mislead consumers into believing that their likelihood of winning a major prize is significantly greater than it actually is. For example, Publishers Clearing House has used personalized form letters that often appear to be handwritten and contain language intimating friendship and caring. The letters misrepresent the nature of the relationship between Publishers Clearing House, a mass-market retailer, and its customers. In addition, external packaging and envelopes of sweepstakes solicitations use descriptive text and graphics to create a false impression that the mailings are urgent and legally important. In fact, they only are a mass-market mailing. Consumers also are misled into believing that entries made with a purchase are more likely to win a sweepstakes prize than an entry made without a purchase.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation of the Unlawful Trade Practices Act. It also seeks full restitution for consumers who were harmed by any of Publishers Clearing House's activities and attorneys' fees.
A copy of the lawsuit is available on the Department's web page at www.DOJ.state.or.us.
Consumers may call the Attorney General's toll-free consumer hotline for more information about sweepstakes at 1-877-877-9392 or (503) 378-4320 (Salem-area only) or (503) 229-5576 (Portland-area only). Consumers also may write to Financial Fraud/Consumer Protection, 1162 Court St., N.E., Salem, Oregon 97310.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org