An automatic renewal program operated by legal publishers Thomson Reuters Tax Accounting and West Publishing Corp. could cost the companies up to $6 million in restitution after the Florida attorney general questioned their legality.

Following an investigation, AG Pam Bondi said the companies placed lawyers and law firms into automatic subscription renewals and automated shipment plans for books, newsletters, and other publications in print, CD, and e-book formats without adequate disclosures over a four-year period.

In the legal publishing context, Thomson and West would sell a book on a particular statute or law, for example, and then send supplements or updates to the law firm on the negative option plan.

To settle charges that the publishers violated Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, both agreed to modify their business practices to ensure that they provide appropriate disclosures (like sending an announcement prior to each shipment) for auto renewal subscriptions and obtain affirmative consent to all terms before they ship.

In addition, Thomson and West promised to pay up to $million in consumer redress. Neither publisher admitted liability.

To read the settlement agreement, click here.

Why it matters: AG Bondi has been keeping a close eye on the legal publishing industry. In 2009, she settled similar charges with Matthew Bender and Company, Inc., and made a similar deal last year with CCH for $5 million.