Connecticut Attorney General's Office
Court Urged To Reject Publishers Clearing House's Proposed Settlement
November 15, 1999
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today announced that Connecticut and 20 other states are urging a federal court to reject a proposed settlement offered by Publishers Clearing House to a group of private individuals who had sued the company over its deceptive sweepstakes promotions.
"This settlement proposal is artfully crafted to discourage thousands of consumers victimized by PCH from pursuing the refunds they deserve," Blumenthal said. "No one but PCH wins with this proposal."
Earlier this year, Connecticut sued PCH alleging that the company's sweepstakes promotions violate state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers into purchasing magazines and merchandise with the hope of improving their chances of winning this sweepstakes.
This settlement proposal was made to a group of consumers who had filed a class action lawsuit against the company. When the proposed settlement was announced in August, Blumenthal advised consumers to send letters to the plaintiffs' lawyers requesting that they not be included in the settlement offer.
In a brief filed with the court today, the states urged the court to reject the offer, citing a hard-to-understand small-print notice, a claims process that creates unreasonable obstacles for consumers who should receive monetary relief, injunctive terms that do not stop the underlying deceptive practices, and a woefully inadequate restitution fund.
"The proposed settlement is designed to hinder, rather than help, consumers who have been deceived by Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes mailings," Blumenthal said. "We have significant concerns that the notices -- in small print and littered with legalese -- will put up a roadblock to consumers in assessing the settlement proposal."
Consumers across the country have purchased more than $1 billion worth of merchandise from PCH since 1992.
The class action lawsuit is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The lawsuit filed by Connecticut is pending in New Britain Superior Court, and seeks refunds for consumers, civil penalties and court orders barring further unfair or deceptive practices by PCH.
Besides Connecticut, the other states filing objections were: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.