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Publisher’s Clearing House to change confusing sweepstakes marketing, AG says


Raleigh, NC (NEWS RELEASE) - Consumers will get clearer information about sweepstakes promoted by Publisher’s Clearing House under agreements reached by North Carolina and 32 other states, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.

“People who choose to enter sweepstakes deserve straight information about how the contest works and their chances of winning,” Cooper said.

North Carolina’s agreement, filed as a supplemental consent judgment in Wake County Superior Court and approved by Judge Donald W. Stephens, updates an earlier agreement reached between Cooper’s office and Publisher’s Clearing House in August 2001.

An investigation by North Carolina and the other states determined that Publisher’s Clearing House was not complying fully with the prior agreement, and that consumers could be confused by the nature and language of some of the company’s sweepstakes promotional mailings.

Publisher’s Clearing House sends out mailings to consumers nationwide that offer magazine subscriptions and other merchandise along with the opportunity to enter sweepstakes.

The agreement announced today places tighter restrictions on what Publisher’s Clearing House can and cannot include in its mailings and requires it to make the sweepstakes portion of the mailing separate from the order form. The company is also required to do a better job screening mailings to stop potentially deceptive ones before they go out, and will establish an outside ombudsman to resolve disputes and complaints.

In addition, Publisher’s Clearing House must now survey a sample of consumers in each state regularly to make sure that people are not buying items from the company just because they think it will improve their chances of winning a prize. The company will send a letter out to participants once a year clearly stating that purchases, or increased purchases, do not improve the odds of winning. Under the agreement, Publisher’s Clearing House will also improve its system for recognizing when a vulnerable consumer might be making purchases because of a mistaken belief that it improves their chances of winning or of getting a larger prize.

Publisher’s Clearing House will also pay $3.5 million to cover the cost of the states’ investigation.

North Carolina was one of eight states that helped negotiate today’s agreement, along with Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

“The chance to win a prize can be very exciting, but don’t let yourself get carried away,” Cooper warned consumers. “Read the fine print carefully before you enter any sweepstakes, and keep in mind that buying something doesn’t make you any more likely to win.”

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