DENVER — A magazine company based in Broomfield must pay $250,000 after misleading customers, according to a new settlement, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Tuesday.
Weiser said Mountain View Publishers sent millions of mailers across the nation that appeared to indicate the recipient had won a large sum of money. The advertisements used "misleading and deceptive language" to persuade people they could claim the money if they signed the mailer and returned a small fee, however the fine print read that the consumer was actually just subscribing to a quarterly "Jackpot Journal" magazine, according to the AG's Office. Once the company had payment information, it signed the person up for an automatic subscription renewal every three months for about $33.
Since 2016, the company had gathered 50,000 subscribers averaging $40 in charges per customer — "evidence that many consumers did not understand the nature of MVP’s offer and cancelled quickly when they realized MVP was charging their credit cards or bank accounts," according to a complaint. In total, the company had brought in more than $2 million in revenue, Weiser said. Based on a Department of Law Consumer Protection Division investigation, the average age of Colorado subscribers was about 80 years old.
“Mountain View Publishers operates on a national level and has preyed on our country’s most vulnerable residents,” Weiser said. “The company used underhanded tactics to convince recipients that they were going to receive a large sum of money if they sent a small sum back, when in reality they only received a magazine subscription they did not ask for. This practice was both unfair and unconscionable, and such actions cannot be tolerated.”
Mountain View Publishers is based in Broomfield. It operates under company President Robert Miller, according to the settlement.
According to the complaint, Mountain View Publishers, in response to the investigation, "produced documents which showed that it received numerous consumer complaints that would have alerted the company to the misleading nature of their advertisements. Consumers commonly complained about account charges and that they never authorized the deduction."
In addition to paying $250,000 to the state, the company must also stop the deceptive practices, Weiser said. In Tuesday's settlement, the company agreed to both.
The AG's Office said the mailers must clearly state they are solicitations for a magazine subscription, the price, and the automatic renewals. The mailers must also stop using "pressure tactics," like stating the offer is time sensitive.
Weiser encourages anybody who notices potential scams or fraud to contact Stop Fraud Colorado at 800-222-4444 or www.StopFraudColorado.gov.