SEATTLE - Attorney General Christine Gregoire today announced that consumers who paid for magazine subscriptions they never received will finally get what they ordered, or their money back.
Publishers Services, a Woodinville telemarketing company owned by Daniel William and Stacy Base, repeatedly collected money for magazine subscriptions it failed to deliver or had no authority to sell.
"People thought they were dealing with a legitimate representative of the Reader's Digest and other major publications,” said Gregoire. "Despite being told by various publishers to stop selling their magazines, they continued to market aggressively."
Under the Stipulated Judgment, entered in King County Superior Court last week, the telemarketer must now either provide the magazines or give refunds to approximately 48,000 consumers nationwide. Those consumers purchased magazine subscriptions between May 1996 and August 1998.
The AG's office first took action against Publishers Services in 1995 when it filed a complaint alleging the company misrepresented its affiliation with publishers and failed to deliver purchased magazines or to give refunds as promised. That action was resolved in 1996 with a Stipulated Judgment, but after less than a year, the AG's office started receiving consumer complaints alleging that Publishers Services was once again using the same deceptive tactics. The AG's office filed its second action against the company in April 1998, and during negotiations to resolve the action, the company went out of business.
“This company ignored the court order and went right on taking money for magazines they had no right to sell,” said Gregoire. “We received over 1,500 complaints, the most we've ever received against any company."
The telemarketer called nationwide selling new subscriptions and renewals to magazines including Sports Illustrated, Readers Digest, TV Guide, Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, and many other magazines published by Meredith Corporation Publishers and American Media, Inc., Time-Mirror, Time Inc., New York Times, Inc. and Trans World Publishing.
Gregoire cautioned consumers not to expect to receive restitution notices immediately. The restitution process will occur over a two year period with notices being sent out each month to the subscribers of various magazines.
Most consumers will be notified that their original magazine order has been placed. Those consumers who paid in full for their original order will receive an additional year's subscription at no extra charge. Consumers will also be given the option to obtain a refund as long as they request it in writing within 30 days of receiving their notification letter.
The restitution the company will provide is estimated at between $500,000 and $1 million. Civil penalties, attorney fees and costs will be considered in a separate proceeding.
For answers to questions or for information on filing a complaint, please contact the Attorney General's Office at 1-800-551-4636. For the hearing impaired call 1-800-833-6384.