Renowned sweepstakes operator Publishers Clearing House finds itself in hot water after the filing of a nationwide class action sweepstakes lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

What sweepstakes law violations are alleged against Publishers Clearing House?

The putative class representatives allege that Publishers Clearing House engaged in deceptive marketing practices through direct mail and email marketing campaigns in violation of federal and state law. Specifically, the alleged deceptive marketing consisted of the following:

  • Using paper mailings to deceptively intermingle enticements to enter sweepstakes promotions with advertisements and solicitations to order products;
  • Using digital marketing that included false representations for the purpose of creating expectations of winnings, or enhanced chances at winning;
  • Using email marketing that contained misleading and/or deceptive subject lines and headers intended to entice recipients into ordering merchandise by representing that such orders would improve the chances of winning a prize; and
  • Informing consumers that they had won a sweepstakes contest via email and, when the purported winners sought to claim the subject prize, advising consumers that the applicable email message was sent by mistake as a tactic to entice people to continue entering the sweepstakes contests.

Publishers Clearing House has settled similar allegations with state attorneys general at various points in the last 20 years and entered into settlement agreements aimed at prohibiting such deceptive marketing practices. According to this lawsuit, Publishers Clearing House systematically violated those settlement agreements through the aforementioned marketing campaigns.

Help Prevent Sweepstakes Law Violations

The laws relating to sweepstakes were enacted to, among other ends, protect the public interest from deceptive promotional advertising. This class action lawsuit against Publishers Clearing House is demonstrative of the legal pitfalls faced by sweepstakes operators. Before launching any contest or sweepstakes promotion, it is critical to work closely with knowledgeable counsel.