Attorney General Paxton Sues Publication Renewal Companies
AUSTIN, March 31, 2015 - The Texas Attorney General’s Office today filed an enforcement action against three corporations based in Oregon for misleading Texas consumers into paying for publication subscription renewals the corporations were not authorized to sell. The State’s legal action cites the defendants for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices – Consumer Protection Act (DTPA).
“These companies engaged in deceptive practices that not only negatively impacted the people who unsuspectingly sent them money, they also damaged the business reputations of the newspapers and magazines whose names the companies co-opted,” said General Paxton. “The people of Texas must have confidence that the companies they do business with are operating in good faith and within the scope of the law, and my office is committed to stopping those who seek to game the system for their own illicit benefit.”
As part of a coordinated effort, the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the offices of the Attorneys General for Missouri, Minnesota, New York and Oregon are filing contemporaneous lawsuits.
This issue was initially brought to the attention of the Texas Attorney General’s Office by Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. According to court documents filed by the State of Texas, using many assumed names, the defendants mailed millions of unsolicited postcards and letters to consumers nationwide – including consumers in Texas – that offered to renew newspaper or magazine subscriptions. Investigators found, however, that the defendants have no affiliation with the publications they offer to renew, nor do they have authorization from the publications to sell or solicit renewals on the publications’ behalf.
Many Texas consumers who paid the defendants in response to these unauthorized, deceptive mailings were charged 100 to 200 percent more than they would have been if they renewed using an authorized sales agent of the publisher. Many consumers who paid the bogus renewal fee never received the promised publication. The State of Texas is seeking restitution, injunctive relief and civil penalties of up to $20,000 for each violation of the DTPA.
Defendants mailed bogus renewal offers to subscribers of a number of Texas publications, including the Austin American-Statesman, Austin Business Journal, Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Houston Business Journal, Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Texas Fish & Game, Texas Monthly and Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Renewal offers were also sent to a number of subscribers of national publications, including The American Spectator Magazine, Barron's Magazine, Catholic Digest, Consumer Reports, Forbes, Harper’s Magazine, Mother Earth News, National Enquirer Magazine, National Geographic, National Review Magazine, The New York Times, Reader's Digest, Science News, Southern Living, The Economist, The Word Among Us, Time Magazine, TV Guide, U.S. News & World Report, Utne Reader and The Wall Street Journal.
Defendants named in the State’s action are:
Express Publishers Service, Inc.
Texans who believe they have been deceived by the defendants may call the Office of the Texas Attorney General’s toll-free Consumer Protection Hotline at 1 (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.