Oregon AG’s Office Puts Magazine Subscription Scam Out of Business

Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon State Attorney General
Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon State Attorney General

We received big news this week from the Oregon Attorney General’s Office when Ellen Rosenblum announced a $3 million settlement with Publisher’s Payment Processing.

According to the AG’s office, the White City company had operated a nationwide scam through a newspaper and magazine subscription ruse.

The numbers are staggering.

Better Business Bureau has received more than 800 complaints against the company within the last 3 years. These include sales and delivery issues as well as problems with service. The most common complaint was billing and collection issues. The volume of complaints, as well as the company’s failure to respond to many of them, have contributed to an F rating for the business.

Consumers told BBB they received bills from the company for magazines they already have subscriptions for, implying it was time for renewal. However, those consumers told us the subscriptions had not expired and they did not originally order from Publisher’s Payment Processing. What’s more, some consumers said the company claimed to have the lowest renewal fee, but they found they could get a better price if they ordered through their magazine’s publisher directly. Many told BBB that Publisher’s Payment Processing would charge a $20 processing fee just to cancel renewals.

The AG’s office says the settlement is not an admission of guilt, but Publisher’s Payment Processing will have to pay up to $500,000 in restitution to Oregon consumers who overpaid or did not receive their magazines. Service fees will also be refunded to Oregonians who have previously received refunds.

“This was a sophisticated operation that generated millions of dollars each year from consumers across the country who thought they were doing business with a reputable magazine or newspaper publisher, but were instead working with a company that made its money by scamming them,” Rosenblum said. “It’s a particular embarrassment to the legitimate Oregon business community when national companies based here don’t play by the rules. The only option was to shut them down—and we have.”

Read the complete Assurance of Voluntary Compliance here.

How My Dream Wedding Gown Turned into a Nightmare

Image courtesy of Rosen Georgiev | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Rosen Georgiev | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love to save money. So when it came time to buy my wedding dress, I was determined to get the deal of a lifetime.

My quest took me to the Internet where I dutifully typed in the designer and style number of the gown of my dreams. Immediately tons of search results filled my screen with prices that were incredibly cheap. All of a sudden, my $3,000 gown could be mine for a mere $400. Done! I entered my credit card information, name and address and hit the “Buy” button. The website warned me that it would take up to a month before my dress arrived. No problem—I’d placed the order well in advance, so I figured I had plenty of time.

Three months later, I was still waiting for my gown.

Panicked, I started emailing the company, asking when I would receive my dress. No response. I called and got the runaround—not to mention the language barrier that comes with buying from an online retailer overseas.

Then, by some miracle, the dress finally arrived at my doorstep. But my relief quickly vanished when I saw that the gown was stuffed into a dingy bag barely bigger than a freezer bag and smelled like a musty basement. Inside I found a cheap, counterfeit dress that looked nothing like the pictures of the gown I had seen online. The material was flimsy, the sewing was poorly done and it didn’t fit.

Sadly, it was too late for me to get another dress, and of course no one returned my calls when I tried to get a refund.

Learn from my mistake. Get your gown from a trusted bridal shop—or if you order online, do your research first and read reviews. I wish I had known back then that BBB has a list of Accredited Businesses specifically in the wedding industry. That would’ve saved me a lot of trouble and heartache.

Counterfeit gowns are just one of the many areas engaged couples need to beware of as they’re planning for their big day. You can read all about the latest wedding scams and how to avoid them here.

What stresses you out the most when it comes to planning your wedding? Take our Facebook poll!

Red Bull Loses $13 Million in False Advertising Settlement

According to a lawsuit, RedBull’s “advertising and marketing is not just ‘puffery,’ but is instead deceptive and fraudulent and is therefore actionable.”

BBB gives high priority to truth in advertising—we believe consumers should be able to accept ads at face value to use as part of their buying decisions. We challenge misleading or deceptive ads based on national guidelines (see go.bbb.org/akorww-advertising). Our goal is to foster honest advertising and self-regulation in the marketplace.

Watch Your Buck | Blog for BBB serving the Heart of Texas

ID-100249810“Red Bull Gives you wings….” Not so much, according to the courts. Energy drink company Red Bull GmbH has agreed to pay out more than $13 million to settle a class action lawsuit that alleges false advertising. The settlement includes millions of individuals who have purchased Red Bull energy drinks over the last 10 years.

Consumers who purchased one or more Red Bull energy drinks between Jan. 1, 2002 and Oct. 3, 2014 are entitled to a $10 cash refund or $15 worth of Red Bull products (shipping costs will be covered by the company). If you, or someone you know, have purchased a Red Bull energy drink over the last 10 years, please visit the attached link to file your claim: http://energydrinksettlement.com/claim. Proof of purchase is not required. The claim form deadline is March 2, 2015.

NOTE: The site to file a claim seems to have gone down, likely…

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Is the Amazon Refund Email in My Inbox Legit?

Exclusive

Attention readers! Any E-book purchases made between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012, may qualify you for a refund. And lucky for me I’m getting a whole $2.19 back!

According to the Alaska Attorney General’s Office, “Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Simon & Schuster Inc., Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC, d/b/a Macmillan, and Penguin Group (USA) Inc. [have] settled the claims against them for a total nationwide payment of $166 million, of which approximately $750,000 will be distributed to Alaska residents.”

Oregon and Washington were not formally involved in the multi-state litigation process; however, residents of those states who made eligible E-book purchases are still entitled to refunds.

The case claims that the major publishers colluded—or secretly worked together in order to do something dishonest—to fix and raise the prices of digital books, which is illegal. The publishers deny the allegations but have agreed to settle the lawsuit. Note: Amazon is not a party to these lawsuits and is issuing refund credits on behalf of the publishers.

Better Business Bureau has received multiple inquiries from consumers across our service area about unexpected emails informing them of credits to their Amazon accounts. Being wary of phishing scams, many customers have reached out to BBB for verification. While BBB cannot guarantee that every email purporting to come from Amazon is legitimate, this settlement is real and refunds are being credited in March 2014.

An example of a legitimate notification email is pictured below; reports indicate that emails are also arriving from Barnes & Noble. Remember, these notifications are intended as information-only and although there may be links within them, recipients should avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments.

Amazon Settlement Email Large

A thorough FAQ from Amazon is available here. For more information on this settlement or your refund eligibility, visit ebooksagsettlements.com.

Alaska Attorney General Geraghty reiterated that “consumers are entitled to a fair, open and competitive marketplace. When a company violates the antitrust laws, consumers who have suffered as a consequence of that violation are entitled to compensation.”

Refund credit amounts are $3.17 each for New York Times Bestsellers and $0.73 each for other titles. All I can say is that this refund is perfectly-timed; I still haven’t read the latest Twilight book…

Full Disclosure: Amazon.com is a BBB Accredited Business headquartered in Seattle, Washington.