$3.5M settlement for Publisher’s Clearing House

By Becky Yerak
Posted Sep. 9, 2010 at 2:26 p.m.

Sweepstakes contest organizer Publishers Clearing House will pay a total of $3.5 million to Illinois, 31 other states and Washington, D.C. to cover their investigative costs as part of a new settlement that also toughens solicitation practices.

The settlement, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, stemmed from a probe into Publishers’ “marketing practices of misleading consumers to believe purchasing magazines and other products will increase their chance to win the jackpot,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement.

Illinois’ share of the settlement will be about $40,000, a spokeswoman said.

The filing strengthens terms of settlements that the states reached in 2000 and 2001, she said. Continued complaints filed with Madigan’s office in recent years, however, raised new concerns that consumers could still be confused by the nature and language of Publishers’ promotional mailings.

One senior reported spending $2,126 on merchandise in one year in hopes of winning a prize, but never won a dime.

Another Illinois consumer said her 84-year-old father “is devastated each time he learns he is not the winner.” She told Madigan’s office that her father believes that he’s more likely to win because he makes purchases and receives personalized mailings from Publishers.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Publishers also must identify and survey each Illinois consumer over the age of 65 who spends $500 or more in a quarter and remove those consumers from their mailing lists if they have misunderstandings about sweepstakes.

They must also send a non-promotional letter to Illinois consumers who spend more than $1,000 on merchandise a year, emphasizing that making a purchase does not increase the likelihood of winning and take additional steps to make sure their mailings aren’t misleading.

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  1. Tim Sep. 9, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    “Another Illinois consumer said her 84-year-old father ‘is devastated each time he learns he is not the winner.’ ” Are you kidding me? This is a joke, right? These are the same people who think the lottery is a sound investment too. Then, when all of the sudden they can’t pay their mortgage on time, they blame the government for taking their money. Absolute idiots.

  2. Rod Sep. 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    That 84 year old man is not the winner, I am! Every time I throw that PCH junk mail in the recycling bin, I win.

  3. Real Suburban Sep. 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Another dumb lawsuit gumming up our courts! Someone is going to sue the lottery next because they never win.

  4. Mal Sep. 9, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Lisa Madigan needs to look into her democrat buddies and how much they are looting the state for. Start with her disgusting father, Mike!

  5. city guy Sep. 9, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    You may already be a winner!

  6. hombre58 Sep. 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Do we really need to have the government protecting people from their own stupidity??

  7. Mary Sep. 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Re: the 84-year-old who is so devastated each time he does not win: Has he been checked for dementia or another disorder, and is he still truly capable of handling his own finances? Anyone with a sound mind would not waste their money on such trash!

  8. JoeOutWest Sep. 9, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    A bunch of people just jumped out of a van and are heading toward my house. They’re carrying a large sign and balloons. I’ll be right back.

  9. Strawberry Margarita Sep. 9, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Honestly, Americans are getting stupider with each passing day; and as long as the government keeps coddling us the infection will continue to spread. Whether someone is a senior or not, if they have $500-$1000 to spend on magazines (that’s gotta be a lifetime subscription to Field and Stream) then they don’t need a Publishers Clearing House jackpot anyway. Their kids are just mad that the inheritance is being spent.

    I’ve seen so many elderly people who refuse to accept any help from their families or social services; refusing to give up their independence. Many of them are a hazard to society (how often do old folks lose control of their cars and cause injury/damage?) but the system won’t punish them due to their age. So its ok to spend tax money to protect them from mass marketing campaigns, but I’m on my own against a legally blind 85 year old and his Caddy.

  10. mike Sep. 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Keep throwing it in the garbage i am a printer on overtime

  11. sue0188 Sep. 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Strawberry Margarati, I agree with you 100 percent. You make a very, very good argument. Until we can force them to accept the help they need, then I don’t want a dime spent “protecting” them from this nonsense if they want to be so stupid.

  12. jaime Sep. 9, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Hey strawberry : Stupider is not a word. Its “more stupid” . my gosh

  13. rbyteme Sep. 9, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Does it occur to any of the fine, judgmental, and self-proclaimed intelligentia posting here that an 84 year old guy may not have all his faculties? Or that, regardless of age, some people aren’t as smart as others? Does that make them bad in some way? Is it a good thing for us to practice social Darwinism, sitting back and letting others fall prey to every scam that comes along, laughing inwardly because WE are able to see through any such prevarication?

    Yet another question: Are any of you kind folk IN FAVOR OF deceptive marketing practices? Are you also worshipping at the alter of Holy Righteous Capitalism and following P.T. Barnum’s business model?

    Yeah, so much easier to ridicule or denigrate people than have even an ounce of compassion/empathy, or consider how things like the behavior of Publisher’s Clearing House diminishes the world we live in.

  14. Jim O Sep. 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    I have sent back Publisher Clearing House (PCH)mailings in the past, even made a couple purchases. I will tell you, their mailings are not deceptive. They state very clearly that purchasing does not increase your chances of winning. Granted, that the mailings do state , that “you MAY already be a winner”, but is that more deceptive than say a bread company that posts “Whole Grain Bread” when in fact the whole grain is about the fifth ingredient, and the main ingrediant is unbleached flour? Yes there are deceptive advertisers, but PCH never told me I was a winner, and they were right, I wasn’t.

  15. Michael Nejedly Sep. 9, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    It actually says, “ordering will not increase your chances of winning right on the papers you submit!

  16. Ron Mills Sep. 9, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Reminds of a church minister who kept praying to GOD; asking him to answer his prayer of winning a lottery. The minister promised God he would give all his winnings to the poor.

    GOD answered said minister by reminding him: “IT WOULD HELP IF YOU BOUGHT A TICKET!!

  17. Ron Mills Sep. 9, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Reminds me of a church minister who kept praying to GOD; asking him to answer his prayer of winning a lottery. The minister promised God he would give all his winnings to the poor.

    GOD answered said minister by reminding him: “IT WOULD HELP IF YOU BOUGHT A TICKET!!

  18. Maureen Sep. 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks Jim O, for speaking up for people who are easily swayed by false advertising, especially those seniors who may be starting a bit of dementia but still function well otherwise. We will all be old one day, and those that want to say how ’stupid’ these people are, will be in their shoes one day. It’s a crime how PCH targets these individuals and falsely leads them to believe they are so close to winning, and will be a sure winner if they just make additional purchases. And for those who think it’s just magazine, no, it’s a ton of ’stuff’ that they sell through their mailings, in addition to ‘free prizes’ that are complete junk but have shipping charges of at least $5.00. Seniors can’t read all the fine print, they only see the large print ‘you are on the winning list’. Have a little empathy folks, and face your future!