United States Purchasing Exchange (USPE) Settlement Frequently Asked Questions
Summary of Settlement
USPE has signed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) with stringent injunctive terms requiring substantial changes in USPE's business practices and further requiring payment by USPE of approximately $35 million dollars. $30 million of that is dedicated for restitution to customers residing in all states participating in the settlement; the remainder is for the cost of distributing restitution to customers and for attorneys' fees and investigative costs. Texas' share of those attorneys' fees is approximately $31,000.00.
The changes in business practices include:
- establish a single method to enter the sweepstakes that is separate from the order device so that the consumer does not have the impression that he or she must order to enter the sweepstakes;
- use only a single deadline to enter the sweepstakes that is consistent with the ending date of the sweepstakes;
- stop sweepstakes mailings to customers who spend more than $934.00, or make more than 24 purchases in a year's time in response to sweepstakes solicitations; and
- include a Sweepstakes Facts Sheet in all mailed sweepstakes communications. This required Sweepstakes Facts Sheet must identify all major prizes, their value and quantity, the odds of winning the prize on a 1 in "n" ratio, the termination date of the sweepstakes, the identifying numbers of the sweepstake and four important messages which are defined in the AVC. These messages are called the "You Have Not Won Message"; the "Enter for Free Message", the "Enter as Often as You Like Message", and "The Buying Won't Help You Win Message".
The AVC further prohibits USPE from:
- representing that sweepstakes prizes will be awarded in a non-random manner or that any person has or will have any advantage over other entrants;
- using personalized simulated checks with their solicitations to represent that any person has been selected to win unless in fact such person has won;
- representing that its employees or agents have personal feelings concerning a recipient (e.g. Ray, you're a good customer and deserve to win...); and
- using labels or symbols which resemble indicia used by a government agency unless the label or symbol is genuine.
Under the Attorney General's settlement, who will be eligible for restitution?
Any consumer who paid more than $1,870 to USPE in 1997, 1998 or 1999 will be eligible for restitution. The specific amount each consumer receives will be determined on a pro rata basis based on the number of claims received by the Settlement Administrator who will soon be appointed to manage the payment of restitution.
I think I'm eligible for restitution, what do I need to do?
The Settlement Administrator will be sending you a simple notice and verification form advising you that you are eligible for restitution. At that point you will need to fill out the form and return it according to the instructions which will be provided. You are not required to, but you may wish to, file a consumer complaint with this office regarding your participation in USPE's sweepstakes.
If I am eligible for restitution, when can I expect to receive my restitution money?
If you are eligible for restitution, the Settlement Administrator will be sending you a simple notice and verification form. You should receive that notice in the next six months and checks in 60 to 90 days after that. This office will be working with the Settlement Administrator to assure that all Texans eligible for restitution receive their notices and their money.
Can I contact the Settlement Administrator?
Once the Settlement Administrator is appointed, we will post a contact name and address at this web site with additional information.
What if I am not eligible for restitution under the agreement?
The focus of this enforcement effort was to bring about changes in this company's business practices. The restitution effort focused on providing relief to high volume customers who suffered the greatest economic losses. You may wish to contact a private attorney who can advise you regarding what options you may wish to pursue.
How do I file a complaint?
While sweepstakes may be a legitimate marketing tool, some companies utilizing this type of marketing engage in misleading and deceptive acts or practices. If you receive a solicitation for a sweepstakes that you believe has a tendency or capacity to mislead consumers, you may file a consumer complaint with this office.
You have four options:
- call your nearest Regional Office and ask staff to mail you a complaint form
- call our statewide toll free number (1-800-621-0508) and ask staff to mail you a complaint form
- go to your nearest Regional Office and fill out a form there
- access our online complaint form and submit your complaint electronically