Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

For immediate release -- Tuesday, September 16, 1997.

Miller: Publishers Clearing House Mailing
Should be Read With Caution

"Automobile Prize Distribution WINNERS WARRANTY" doesn't mean you've won. Miller emphasizes: You don't have to order to enter sweepstakes.

DES MOINES-- 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.

The single-sheet 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."

"There's nothing 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 prize promotions."

"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.