FTC charges pitchmen with deceptive telemarketing

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The Federal Trade Commission has charged several Pennsylvania-based defendants with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule by calling consumers and telling them they could receive valuable coupons for groceries and other items when in fact the defendants were luring them into signing up to purchase unwanted magazine subscriptions.

The FTC filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on May 23.

The complaint says that the defendants, collectively known as Magazine Solutions, often did not tell consumers up-front that to get the coupons worth more than $1,000 they had to buy the subscriptions. They also sometimes claimed the magazines were free or that the consumers had to pay only shipping and handling. When consumers tried to cancel their orders, many found it was nearly impossible to do and were stuck with subscriptions to magazines they never wanted in the first place.

The FTC's complaint seeks to permanently bar the deceptive marketing and freeze the defendants' assets to preserve them for consumer redress.

The complaint comes shortly after the Pennsylvania attorney general's office filed contempt charges against defendant United Publishers' Service Inc. for violating a previous court order prohibiting the company from, among other things, violating Pennsylvania's consumer protection law and the FTC's TSR.

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