The Case Against the Publishers Clearing House

            Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes or Scam.

             On January 28, 1999, Wisconsin Attorney General James Doyle filed a civil lawsuit against one of the largest sweepstakes promoters in the country, Publishers Clearing House for "allegedly making fraudulent representations" or using deceptive advertising. According to the complaint, "Publishers clearing house is charged with misrepresenting: .

             ? that consumers have won or will win a large cash prize in the company's sweepstakes; .

             ? that consumers will improve their chances of winning by purchasing merchandise from PCH; .

             ? that the PCH sweepstakes is endorsed, ratified or legalized by the state of Wisconsin and the United states government; and.

             ? the terms and conditions of the PCH sweepstakes.".

             Wisconsin's lawsuit is pursuing "penalties for the alleged violations of Wisconsin's consumer laws, disgorgement of all profits the company has made from the unlawful sale of merchandise, restitution for consumers who have lost money and a court order to force Publishers Clearing house to change its marketing practices." In addition, Doyle believes that federal legislation should do more to protect consumers from "fraudulent sweepstakes offers." .

             Publishers Clearing House disagrees, contending that their rules are very specific, that they disclose all of their odds, and that people understand the promotions. Debbie Holland, senior vice president of the company insists that "people don't think that they win" when they receive letters from the company notifying that they are the "latest ten million dollar winner." Holland has also suggested that excerpts from their letters such as "you have to keep your customer status high" or "thank the prize patrol in advance" are not intended to trick consumers into purchasing products from the company, but are meant to "simply ask for an order." Publishers Clearing House vice president Todd Sloan contends that their promotions are "clear and easy to understand and the overwhelming majority of consumers who play the sweepstakes know how to play and know no purchase is necessary.

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