Email Subject Lines Cited In Lawsuit Against Publishers Clearing House

Publishers Clearing House, the legendary direct marketing company known for its line “You may have already won,” has been hit with a class-action lawsuit, alleging, among things, that its email messages mislead people into thinking they have a better chance of winning prizes if they have purchased from the firm.

The suit alleges that PCH has “enticed and solicited consumers, particularly the elderly, into believing they have enhanced opportunities of winning millions of dollars in sweepstakes and lotteries.” Its marketing channels include email, direct mail and the web.

The firm’s email subject lines violate the Can-Spam Act, the complaint states. And its direct mail copy runs afoul the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act, it adds. 

The complaint alleges that PCH uses such personalized subject lines and headers as:

  • Deposit of (Recipient’s name) Prize Number Must Be Accepted! 
  • Payment Transfer Notice Alert – Authorized
  • (Recipient) will Become the Immediate Owner
  • Office Of the Controller: Funds Authorized For Release On 10/13
  • Less Than 5% of Our Members Will Receive This (Recipient) 

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The copy allegedly includes such lines as:

  • Being a Valued Customer Could Really Pay Off
  • We’ve reserved an EXCLUSIVE cash prize Just To Thank Past Orderers, Like You! This Opportunity is not for the General Public – And You’ve Earned it – So Please Don’t Miss Out!”
  • “$100,000 Contest Is ONLY open To Valued Customers like you!”
  • The plaintiffs charge that PCH has “repeatedly and systematically” violated agreements signed with state attorneys general in 1994 and 2001.  

According to The New York Daily News, a PCH spokesman responds, "Since 1953, Publishers Clearing House has awarded over $385 million in prizes and awards from coast to coast, and we are pleased to have millions of satisfied consumers who welcome the PCH brand into their homes."

The spokesman adds, "We will vigorously defend and fight this matter that has no basis."

PCH is known for iconic TV spots featuring the late Ed McMahon 

The case is on file with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Central Islip Division.

 

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