The Associated Press

PHOENIX Publisher's Clearing House, one of the nation's biggest sweepstakes operators, concluded a final round Wednesday with the attorneys general of 14 states.

But the Prize Patrol isn't on its way.

The company has agreed to pay $490,000 to the states as part of an agreement which ends a two-year investigation into the company's mailing practices in relation to the Consumer Fraud Act.

Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods said the Port Washington, N.Y.-based company also agreed to modify several practices the state officials questioned.

Arizona was joined in the investigation by California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas. The money will go to consumer education and litigation revolving funds in those states, Woods said.

Consumers across the country had complained about mailings which seemingly labeled everyone a "finalist" or declared entrants' eligibility for a "final round," said Woods spokeswoman Karie Kloos.

In the agreement, which does not include an admission of wrongdoing by Publisher's Clearing House, the company promised to clarify in its mailings how sweepstakes finalists and final rounds are determined.

The complaints triggered investigations in Texas and New York, with other states quickly joining in, Kloos said.

Kloos said the mailings were deceptive.

"There are no rounds, so that's just made up," Woods said. "And everyone who answers (the mailings) is a finalist. The only ones that are eliminated are the ones that aren't contacted."

The company may no longer describe someone who hasn't entered the promotional sweepstakes as a "finalist," Woods said.

"We believe the company's solicitations have misled consumers into making purchass they might not otherwise have made," said Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

If the word "finalist" is used, the mailing will also list the average odds of winning a prize, said David Sayer, executive director of advertising and public relations for the company.

In addition, Woods said the company agreed to emphasize the "no purchase necessary" for entering or winning the sweepstakes.

"We felt, definitely, that they ... made it look like if you subscribed (to magazines), you had some sort of edge," Woods said.

"Many consumers didn't realize that the winning number was selected in each sweepstakes before the entry materials were mailed, and that their chances of winning didn't increase no matter how many magazines they purchased," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.

Sayer said the company has always been frank about no-purchase rules.

"No purchase necessary is a founding principle of sweepstakes," he said. "People have always been able to write in entries, and we have always awarded all prizes.

"We think things are very clear when they are mailed out, and as a result of this agreement, we'll go the extra mile to make absolutely sure they're crystal clear."

Sayer said the company was working to eliminate confusing language before the state attorneys contacted the company.

"We've been in substantial compliance with this agreement for quite some time now," he said. Read Next Article