Telemarketer Settles Lawsuit Over Violations

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United Publishers' Service Inc., Monroeville, PA, agreed to a consent decree with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection last week that will require the telemarketing company to cancel its consumer contracts, issue refunds and repair negative consumer credit reports.


The consent decree resolves a 1997 federal lawsuit alleging that United Publishers' Service violated the Pennsylvania's Consumer Protection Law, Telemarketer Registration Act and the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule.


The lawsuit alleged that United Publishers' Service used a grocery-coupon scheme to lure consumers into purchasing magazine subscriptions. According to Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher, the company failed to disclose to consumers the complete terms of the coupon redemption until after the consumers had signed a written contract or paid for the magazine subscriptions. The company also was accused of failing to disclose the total cost of $777 for the magazine subscriptions, falsely claiming that the coupon savings outweighed the costs, falsely claiming that the offer had a money-back guarantee, failing to include an official notice of cancellation, and failing to register with the state as a telemarketer.


The company did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.


It was ordered to pay $12,290 in restitution to 92 consumers and $15,000 in civil penalties. The company also had to inform consumers that their contracts were canceled and that they were released from liability. And the company had to agree to an inspection of its records to ensure compliance, among other concessions.
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