immediate release -- Tuesday, September 16, 1997.
Publishers Clearing House Mailing
Should be Read With Caution
Prize Distribution WINNERS WARRANTY" doesn't mean you've won. Miller emphasizes:
You don't have to order to enter sweepstakes.
Attorney General Tom Miller cautioned Iowans not to assume that they have
won a car if they receive a Publishers Clearing House "WINNERS WARRANTY"
certificate in the mail.
"We think many Iowans
may wrongly believe that they have won a car," Miller said. "It takes
a very close reading of the mailing to recognize that impression is false."
Miller also emphasized:
"Iowans do not have to order magazines or merchandise to enter a sweepstakes
-- and making a purchase doesn't increase your chance of winning."
He said many Iowans
apparently are receiving the mailing, which he said seems to be designed
to create excitement and prompt quick action by consumers for a follow-up
sweepstakes solicitation that will arrive soon.
No money is requested
in the current notice, but a later stage of the solicitation process presumably
will include an invitation to buy magazines or other Publishers Clearing
House products in connection with the sweepstakes.
Miller said consumers
have contacted his office to complain that they consider the Publishers
Clearing House notice to be deceptive and misleading.
notices are printed on certificate paper, are issued to specific Iowans
with their home address listed, and have a heading that reads, "Department
of Automobile Prize Distribution WINNERS WARRANTY." It continues, "This
Winners Warranty confirms that in a few days you will receive a Ford Taurus
Guarantee of Delivery Form as part of an Express Bulletin from Publishers
Clearing House. Contingent upon selection of your Guarantee of Delivery
Form as the winner, this warranty verifies that your choice of Ford Taurus
or $35,000 cash will be delivered to the following address:" The certificate
lists the recipient's name and address.
At the bottom, the
certificate says, "To keep this warranty valid, be sure to look for and
return your Guarantee of Delivery Form to Publishers Clearing House by
the Oct. 6 deadline."
new about sweepstakes solicitations that make some consumers believe they
are poised to win a great prize," Miller said, "but it is a new twist
to send out a separate mailing before the actual solicitation, evidently
to soften up the consumer for what comes next and to prompt a quick response."
When the solicitation
does come, Miller emphasized that Iowans may enter without making a purchase,
a fact which he said "too often gets lost in the hoopla surrounding some
"By law, a sweepstakes
cannot require a purchase," he said. And making a purchase doesn't increase
your chance of winning. Indeed, we know that a large share of Publishers
Clearing House sweepstakes winners have not made a purchase."
Miller said his
office is aware of one Northwest Iowa man who purchased almost $7,000
in magazines and merchandise, thinking that purchases were required in
order to win.
Miller noted that
the "WINNERS/ WARRANTY" notices appear to be a bulk-rate mass- mailing,
not notices to a handful of actual winners. He said the Consumer Protection
Division of his office is contacting Publishers Clearing House to verify
that it is a widespread bulk mailing and to state the department's concerns
about the mailing.