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Lawsuit could get refunds buyers

Area residents who played the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes in recent years can put their name on a national lawsuit designed to reimburse those misled into paying for a chance to win millions.

Tuesday, September 07, 1999

Area residents who played the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes in recent years can put their name on a national lawsuit designed to reimburse those misled into paying for a chance to win millions.

The magazine marketing giant and sponsor of the nation’s most popular sweepstakes, agreed this summer to enter into a $10 million nationwide class action settlement in order to resolve a pending lawsuit against the company.

The settlement, approved in August by a federal judge, calls for Publishers Clearing House to inform consumers that no purchase is necessary to enter the sweepstakes, ensure that consumers fully understand the promotions and provide consumer assistance and education services, among other directions.

Ironton and Tri-State residents began receiving notices in late August that they were eligible to take part in the class action lawsuit.

"Basically, there has never been a hearing or a trial but there has been this proposed settlement agreement," said Ironton attorney Susan Brown who read a copy of the mailed agreements.

"What the issue is is the sweepstakes solicitations mislead the class (people across the country who entered the sweepstakes) into purchasing magazines or merchandise under the mistaken belief that it would increase their chances of receiving a prize," Ms. Brown said.

Publishers Clearing House denies that it mislead people, but in order to avoid the lawsuit, it agreed to settle, she said.

Basically, according to the settlement agreement, people who purchased magazines can receive a refund of that purchase and can receive another chance at the sweepstakes by taking part.

They must have receipts for the magazine purchases and must send in a notarized letter stating that they believed that by purchasing the magazines they would increase their chances of winning, Ms. Brown said.

Those taking part will not be suing Publishers Clearing House, just agreeing to receive the settlement, she added.

"You’ll probably get the $6 you spent on a magazine subscription," Ms. Brown said. "If you do nothing, you’re still part of the class action, but you just won’t receive a refund."

Area residents’ seeking specific advice about what to do, should see their attorney, she said.

Bill Low, general counsel for Publishers Clearing House, said that the company entered into the agreement with no admission of wrongdoing and to avoid the burdens of extended litigation.

Referring to the settlement, senior vice president Deborah Holland said the company is dedicated to making sure sweepstakes are fun.

"In addition to these measures, we are voluntarily adopting a number of improvements to our mailings and programs with the goal of establishing new standards for the industry and restoring the public’s confidence in legitimate free-by-mail sweepstakes like ours."