The operators of a deceptive newspaper subscription scheme are permanently banned from the direct mail marketing business under a federal court order obtained by the Federal Trade Commission.
Following a five-week trial, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Medford Division, issued an order granting the FTC’s request to permanently ban the defendants from direct mail marketing, to prohibit them from future misrepresentations in connection with the sale of goods and services, and to prevent them from benefiting from any consumer information obtained in connection with the subscription scheme. The court also imposed a monetary judgment of $8.9 million against the corporate defendants and three individual defendants.
The court order stems from a 2016 FTC complaint, in which the FTC alleged that the defendants operated a complicated web of companies that illegally sent consumers deceptive “Notice of Renewal/New Order” mailers for subscriptions to newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Seattle Times, and The Denver Post. These subscription notices gave consumers the false impression that they were either from or authorized by the newspapers, that any current subscription would be renewed automatically, and that the consumer was being offered the lowest price available.
“The deceptive mailing operation spanned decades, evolving over multiple iterations but maintaining the same business structure and using the same or a very similar mailer,” the Judge wrote in the court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. “The deceptive mailing operation continued despite countless consumer complaints, government and private lawsuits, and multiple cease and desist letters from publishers dating back to at least 2010 through 2015.” As a result, the court imposed a permanent ban on direct mail marketing and subjected the defendants to twenty years of compliance reporting, monitoring, and record-keeping requirements.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
NOTE: The Commission files a federal court complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a judicial proceeding is in the public interest. The cases are decided by the court.