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Barnett Announces Sweepstakes Settlement

BARNETT ANNOUNCES SWEEPSTAKES SETTLEMENT

(Pierre) Attorney General Mark Barnett today announced a multi-state settlement that requires one of the country’s largest sweepstakes companies to make dramatic changes in what it tells consumers and also to pay more than $30 million in restitution to consumers. Over 150 South Dakota consumers are eligible to receive restitution from the settlement. The State will also receive $20,000 to cover costs of the investigation.

Barnett and the Attorneys General of 47 other states and the District of Columbia have reached an agreement with United States Sales Corp., of Northridge, California, which does business as United States Purchasing Exchange and USPE. The agreement requires USPE to provide clear and conspicuous "Sweepstakes Facts" for consumers on the sweepstakes entry form itself, including a statement that the consumer has not yet won, the odds of winning a prize and that a product purchase is not required to win.

"Hundreds of South Dakota consumers have been targeted by this company and have purchased household products in hopes of ensuring a sweepstakes win," Barnett said. "Older South Dakotans have been especially vulnerable to this company."

As part of the agreement, USPE will discontinue mailings to certain ‘high activity’ customers, and will improve its disclosures of how consumers can enter its sweepstakes without making a purchase.

Barnett said sweepstakes are an area of concern for many older South Dakotans. His office receives hundreds of reports every year of consumers purchasing multiple magazine subscriptions or products they don’t want or need because they believed that purchases would help their chances of winning.

"Look out for your friends and neighbors," Barnett said. "If they begin to accumulate large quantities of mail order ‘junk,’ it may be a sign they’re ordering merchandise from a sweepstakes company."

Consumers with questions about this settlement or sweepstakes in general can call Barnett’s Division of Consumer Protection at 1-800-300-1986.