Minnesota sues Oregon companies in 'magazine renewal' scam

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A group of Oregon-based companies could be in some serious trouble, with Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filing suit against them Tuesday.

A release from Swanson's office says the companies (which call themselves Orbital Publishing Group, Inc., Liberty Publishers Service, Inc., Associated Publishers Network, Inc., and Express Publishers Service, Inc.) have been defrauding magazine and newspaper subscribers in Minnesota – many of them senior citizens – with phony renewal notices.

“They used deceptive ‘renewal’ notices to get people to unwittingly pay significantly more for their newspaper or magazine subscriptions,” Swanson said.

In one example, one of the businesses charged an 80-year-old St. Peter woman nearly $80 to renew her TV Guide subscription for a year. In reality, the magazine charges less than $17 for a one-year-subscription, the release pointed out.

According to the accusations, the tactics have gone far beyond overcharging.

The firms claim to sell subscriptions on behalf of "hundreds" of publications, but are apparently authorized by few or none of them to do so. The release says some publishers have even sent "cease and desist" letters to these companies demanding that they stop.

Because of this, some scam victims never received their subscriptions.

It's affected not only Minnesota's news and magazine readers, but also its media outlets. The Star Tribune reports that it, and the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, were included in the Oregon firms' schemes.

The paper notes that at least one of the companies has abysmal ratings from the Better Business Bureau, and hundreds of complaints against it.

But it's not just happening in Minnesota. Swanson is joining her counterparts in four other states – Oregon, New York, Missouri and Texas – in bringing suits against the renewal companies, according to the Register-Guard.

Minnesota's lawsuit aims at stopping their "deceptive direct-mail marketing" practices, punishing the firms with civil penalties, and winning restitution for the victims.

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