Sixteen states, including California, filed complaints Monday against sweepstakes giant Publishers Clearing House, claiming the company misled consumers into believing that they had a better chance of winning if they ordered more products.
The Port Washington, N.Y.-based company, which sells magazines and other merchandise through direct mail, misrepresents that it has a "personal relationship with consumers" and that it induces people into believing that they are guaranteed winners of multimillion-dollar prizes, when they were winners of $1 or costume jewelry, according to the lawsuit filed in Minnesota--typical of those filed in other states.
Also suing Monday were Colorado, New York, North Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Vermont, Oregon, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Louisiana and Georgia. Similar complaints had been filed separately in nine states.
California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said the company "for years has been targeting the elderly and the gullible with a blizzard of deceptive mailers that are really disguised as sales pitches."