AGREEMENT REQUIRES AMERICAN EXPRESS PUBLISHING CORP. TO MAKE CHANGES IN SWEEPSTAKES PROMOTIONS
Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today announced that his office and the Attorneys General of 47 other states and the District of Columbia entered into a settlement with American Express Publishing Corporation, which will require the company to make dramatic changes in what it tells consumers in its sweepstakes mailings. Through an agreement with Time, Inc, American Express Publishing used the "Guaranteed & Bonded" Sweepstakes to promote three of its own magazines -- Travel & Leisure, Travel & Leisure Golf, and Food & Wine.
Curran said that the settlement requires American Express Publishing to comply with the terms of the recently-announced multistate settlement agreement with Time, Inc. regarding its own use of the Guaranteed & Bonded Sweepstakes. American Express Publishing also agreed to pay total costs of $200,000 to the states, including $3,488.37 to Maryland.
The agreement with American Express Publishing requires that all sweepstakes mailings provide a clear and conspicuous "Sweepstakes Facts" disclosure sheet as a separate enclosure. The Sweepstakes Facts will include a statement that buying won't help the consumer win the sweepstakes, that the consumer has not yet won, and that the consumer doesn't have to buy anything to enter the sweepstakes. The disclosure will also give the odds of winning a prize.
"One of things that we wanted to make certain is that consumers who receive sweepstakes mailings understand they don't have to buy anything to have a chance to win and that buying will not help their chances of winning," Attorney General Curran said. "We believe the Sweepstakes Facts disclosure will help consumers do this."
Curran said that the settlement does not require American Express Publishing to pay restitution because the company's sweepstakes, marketed primarily to American Express cardholders, has not resulted in the same high spending patterns as other sweepstakes. The Attorney General said that some consumers in Maryland, particularly older people, have purchased products in sweepstakes because they believed the purchases would enhance their chances of winning.
Additionally, under the terms of the agreement, American Express Publishing will not be able to misleadingly state that a consumer is the winner or about to become the winner of a sweepstakes, misleadingly tell consumers that they have a better chance of winning a sweepstakes than they actually do or represent that the sweepstakes package has been sent by special courier or a special class of mail, if it has not been.
Participating in today's settlement were the Attorney Generals of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia.