DOJ: News Release

McGrath: Montana, 18 States Settle Claims of Misleading Charity Solicitations

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath announced today that an agreement has been reached with Newport Creative Communications over misleading sweepstakes claims the company made in charity solicitations. Montana was one of 19 states to take part in the settlement.

Newport, a Massachusetts company, is a fundraising consultant for charities, and solicitations developed by Newport for some of these charities often contain sweepstakes promotions. The states alleged that those promotions were often illegal and misleading, guaranteeing prizes or claiming that recipients had already won a sweepstakes prize.

“Using a sweepstakes claim in an effort to raise money is nothing new,” McGrath said, “and having those claims be less than truthful is also, sadly, nothing new.”

The states also alleged that, in most cases, no prizes were ever awarded, despite these misleading claims. Examples of the language used included:

  • “YOU ARE OUR $6,000 WINNER It’s as simple as that,” and
  • “Cash payment to be confirmed for Mr. John Q. Sample upon reply by deadline.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Newport’s direct-mail solicitations will no longer claim that the recipient has already won a prize, or will be guaranteed a prize by responding to the solicitation. Newport will also stop creating mailings unless the charity ultimately does award a prize.

The company will be required to include inserts in its mailings that explicitly state that the consumer has not already won a prize, and that donating to the charity does not improve chances for winning.

In addition to changing their charity pitches, Newport will pay $400,000 to the states.

Other states involved in the agreement are Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Newport disputes the allegations of the settling states and admits no wrongdoing in the agreement.

Montana consumers who believe they’ve been harmed by Newport’s charity solicitations should file a complaint with the Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection. A printable complaint form is available on the Department of Justice home page, or by contacting the Office of Consumer Protection at (406) 444-4500.

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