is whether older Iowans are operating on false belief that they must
make purchases to enter sweepstakes, and whether mailings mislead Iowans.
DES MOINES-- The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division today asked the Polk County District Court to order Publishers Clearing House to comply with a subpoena issued earlier this year that seeks information to help the office "assess the extent to which vulnerable Iowans may be the victims of false beliefs" regarding the sweepstakes, and to "appraise the extent to which Publishers Clearing House mailings mislead Iowans."
The filing is not a lawsuit nor an allegation of fraud or misrepresentation, but an application asking the Court to enforce the Attorney General's subpoena for information. The subpoena was issued February 3, 1998.
According to the application filed today, Publishers Clearing House provided certain information which indicates that hundreds of Iowans made purchases of $1,000 or more in 1996 or 1997. The application said that consumer protection investigators surveyed scores of Iowans who spent larger amounts for Publishers Clearing House purchases and came to a belief that many Iowans "who spend such large amounts misunderstand important aspects of the operation of Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, such as whether one's chance of winning are improved by making purchases, and that these Iowans are therefore in need of educational and protective efforts."
By law, sweepstakes may not require purchases in order to enter. The application noted that Publishers Clearing House mailings include a statement to the effect that no purchase is necessary to enter, but, the application said, the Attorney General's Office "is concerned that such disclaimers as these may in fact be undermined and overborne by contrary messages conveyed by other parts of such mailings and by other mailings."
The application to enforce the subpoena said: "The Office of the Attorney General has an interest in determining the extent to which elderly Iowa consumers are being financially victimized by their false beliefs regarding the nature and operation of sweepstakes promoted by Publishers Clearing House, which false beliefs may be attributable, in whole or in part, to some features of that company's solicitations."
The application stated the information sought by the subpoena also was needed "to evaluate measures reportedly undertaken by Publishers Clearing House to guard against the victimization of vulnerable Iowans."
The application asks the court to order compliance with the subpoena, and to enjoin or prohibit Publishers Clearing House from advertising or otherwise promoting its products or services until it has complied with the subpoena.