A federal judge in Oregon last week ordered individuals and companies to pay $8.9 million to the Federal Trade Commission and demanded they halt sending fraudulent invoices that aimed to secure payment from consumers for newspaper subscriptions.
“The companies, mostly based in Oregon, engaged in a campaign for at least five years, falsely soliciting newspaper renewal subscriptions and collecting payments when they were never authorized by newspaper publishers to do so,” The Oregonian reports.
Millions of orders were mailed starting in at least 2010 under the guise of representing some 375 national and regional publications.
“In response to the deceptive mailings, consumers sent money to the various companies for more than 40,885 newspaper subscriptions between 2010 and mid-2015,” The Oregonian article said.
In California, CNPA alerted members to the scam in 2014. At the time, several metro newspapers had published house ads alerting their subscribers to the scams and prior to alerts being issued by state attorneys general, including then-A.G. Kamala Harris.
States later filed lawsuits against people and companies in the case, and the Federal Trade Commission in 2016 issued an injunction against dozens of companies that sent misleading subscription renewal notices.
“We’re delighted with the outcome,” said Paul Boyle, senior vice president of public policy for the News Media Alliance, which represents more than 2,000 newspapers across the country. The alliance welcomed the involvement of the Federal Trade Commission to end the scheme on a national level, as it impacted 50 newspaper markets around the country, Boyle said.