SEATTLE ---One of the nations largest sweepstakes operators, American Family Publishers, which uses Ed McMahon and Dick Clark as its spokespersons, has agreed to pay Washington and 31 other states $1.25 million and stop the use of illegal promotions tactics.
"There's a line between hype to sell a product and deception," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "This company crossed over that line with their promotion suggesting consumers were one of only two recipients in Washington with the winning numbers."
One 88-year-old man from California who received a notice claiming "You're our newest $11 million winner" reportedly flew across the country to Florida to claim his prize. He was not a winner.
American Family Publishers, a New Jersey-based company and subsidiary of Time, Inc., blankets the country with sweepstakes entries to promote its magazine subscription offers.
Under the agreement, American Family Publishers will be prohibited from:
- Telling consumers they are winners or finalists unless in fact they have won a prize or actually are a finalist;
- Telling consumers they are members of a select or limited group with a favorable chance of winning a prize in a sweepstakes, unless the representation is true and accurately describes the size of the group and the consumers' odds of winning the prize;
- Telling consumers that a sweepstakes entry without an order will result in a reduced chance of winning, or that an entry with an order will receive additional prizes or be more likely to win;
- Failing to tell consumers that no purchase is necessary to participate in the sweepstakes, current or future;
- Failing to tell consumers that to enter the sweepstakes without purchasing they need only write the company to request a sweepstakes entry.
Washington will receive $50,000 as part of the settlement. Over 190 consumers have complained about the company to the Attorney General's office in the last five years, with 50 of those complaints being received this year.
The other states entering agreements with the company include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.
Consumers who want to file a complaint should contact the Attorney General's Office at 1-800-551-4636, (1-800-833-6384 for the hearing impaired), or visit the web site at www.atg.wa.gov.