Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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September 9, 2010

Attorney General announces a $3.5 million agreement with Publishers Clearing House addressing concerns of deceptive marketing

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania, along with 31 other states and the District of Columbia, reached a $3.5 million settlement with Publishers Clearing House over allegations of deceptive marketing practices.

Attorney General Tom Corbett said that Pennsylvania filed an agreement with Publishers Clearing House back in 2001 concerning promotional materials allegedly designed to mislead consumers into believing that purchases would increase their odds of winning a sweepstakes.

Corbett said that a recent investigation raised concerns that Publishers Clearing House was not fully complying with the 2001 agreement and that consumers could still be confused by some of the company's promotional mailings.

"Publishers Clearing House's mailings led people to believe that making purchases would increase their odds of winning a prize, but that was not the case at all," Corbett said.  "The purpose of this modified agreement is to help protect Pennsylvanians from being misled by unclear ads."

According to the agreement, Publishers Clearing House will pay 3.5 million dollars to cover the cost of the states' investigation, they will have tighter restrictions on the language used in their mailings and they will increase consumer surveys to ensure that consumers understand that purchasing does not increase their chances of winning a sweepstakes prize.  They have also agreed to submit to a more independent review process.  

In addition to Pennsylvania, this agreement includes Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The agreement, known as a Consent Decree, will be filed in Commonwealth Court by Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGowan of the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

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