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State AG Suggests Floridians Opt Out of Publishers Clearing House Settlement

By Sep 03, 1999

Bob Butterworth, Florida’s attorney general, is urging Floridians to consider opting out of the proposed settlement of a private, class action lawsuit against sweepstakes company Publishers Clearing House.

Butterworth said he plans to ask the Illinois federal court reviewing the national lawsuit to exempt Florida residents from the agreement, and that he expects to file his own complaint against the Port Washington, NY, company soon.

The class action lawsuit charged Publishers Clearing House with deceiving consumers into thinking they had to buy magazine subscriptions and merchandise in order to enter and win sweepstakes.

“This [settlement] looks like a good deal for lawyers and Publishers Clearing House but a bad deal for consumers,” Butterworth said in a statement. “It earmarks $4 million for customer refunds nationwide. If the value of requested refunds exceeds that amount, the company can issue pro rata refunds rather than full refunds….individual consumers could get pennies while a relative handful of private lawyers get millions of dollars.”

“We think that the proposed settlement is comprehensive, substantial and fair,” Chris Irving, director of consumer affairs, Publishers Clearing House told DIRECT Newsline.

The settlement offers consumers an opportunity to return merchandise for a full refund. The terms of the settlement have been mailed to consumers in Florida and across the nation are published in newspapers and posted on the company’s Web site.

Saying the company had met with Butterworth and that a settlement with Florida could “easily have been reached,” Irving added, “We’re certainly disappointed and surprised that he is planning on filing his own complaint.”