Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


SEATTLE -- The Attorney General today filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to stop a Georgia-based telemarketer from using deceptive prize promotions to "hook" Washington consumers into buying magazine subscriptions.

The Washington action is part of a nationwide crackdown on deceptive prize promotion schemes by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 16 states. Fifty-six lawsuits were filed in the crackdown, which named 79 defendants located in 17 states and Canada.

The Washington lawsuit alleges that Direct Sales International, which also does business as Magazine Sweep stakes, violated state and federal laws by calling consumers and telling them they had won a prize but had to purchase a magazine subscription in order to receive it.

"Deceptive prize promotions lure consumers into spending hundreds of dollars for products they don't want or need," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "We want these promoters to know their tactics are not welcome in this state."

Consumers were told they would win a watch or a camera and would be entered into an "all cash sweepstakes" with a grand prize of $50,000 and an early bird prize of $5,000, only if they purchased or renewed a magazine subscription.

Some consumers who ordered or renewed multiple magazines subscriptions for more than one year, spent several hundred dollars on a single transaction. Magazines subscriptions were sold to a variety of magazines, including Boys Life, Tennis, Seventeen, Byte, Esquire, US Magazine, Life and Redbook.

The Direct Sales telemarketers also allegedly falsely identified themselves as calling from the Publishers Clearinghouse. The defendant has no affiliation with the direct marketing company.

Other misrepresentations outlined in the lawsuit include making unauthorized charges to credit cards, failing to disclose information about odds of winning the sweepstakes, and refusing to allow consumers to cancel their purchases.

Some 80 consumers filed complaints against this telemarketer with the Washington Attorney General's Office. To file a complaint or obtain information call the Attorney General's Office at 1-800 551-4636 or on the internet at www.atg.wa.gov.