CHICAGO (CN) – Publishers Clearing House settled complaints from 32 states by promising to stop misleading people, particularly elderly people, with its sales pitches. The giant magazine huckster also must pay $3.5 million to cover the cost of the investigation.
“We’ve heard from consumers who’ve spent hundreds of dollars purchasing products from Publishers Clearing House because they believe, wrongly, that it will increase their chances of winning,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement. “The tougher provisions in this new agreement will help ensure that Illinois residents are not further misled or confused by the company’s sweepstakes promotions.”
Under the settlement with 32 states and the District of Columbia, Publishers Clearing House (PCH) agreed to identify and survey consumers 65 and older who spend more than $500 in a quarter, and remove them from PCH mailing lists if they don’t understand the sweepstakes; send a nonpromotional letter to people who spend more than $1,000 on merchandise a year, informing them that buying stuff from PCH does not increase the chances of winning; and take additional steps to minimize the chances that their mailings will mislead consumers about their chances of winning.
The settlement stems from allegations that PCH marketing practices mislead consumers into believing that buying magazines and other products will increase their chances of winning the sweepstakes.
Included in the settlement were Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.