AUSTIN – A $424,000 judgment has been handed down in an alleged deceptive magazine and newspaper subscription practice case.
The lawsuit filed against Liberty Publishers Inc., Express Publishers Service Inc. and Orbital Publishing Group accused them of deceiving Texas consumers into paying for subscriptions to a large number of magazines and newspapers that they were not authorized to do so.
The Office of the Attorney General placed the final default judgment against the three companies stopping them from continuing on with their subscription renewal business that allegedly often charged more than authorized agents, saying they deceived consumers.
The defendants are accused of violating the Texas Deception Trade Practices Act by charging 100 to 200 percent more for publication subscription renewals than an authorized agent of the publishers would have charged. The companies were not authorized sales agents of any of the publishers they claimed to work for when they sent out notices for magazine and newspaper renewals, the final judgment states.
The companies reportedly preformed at least 106 violations to the Texas Business and Commerce Code. A judgment of $424,000 was required to be paid by the three companies.
None of the companies in question filed a response or showed up for any of the hearings that took place at the Travis County District Court, but were represented by attorney Gabriella Gonzalez. The court order says the allegations were not contested, leading to a default judgment in favor of the state of Texas.
In court records, it was noted that the subscriptions were mailed to individuals in Texas as well as nationwide. It also stated that uncontroverted evidence was found that the defendants had no affiliation with the publications they were representing and had no authority to sell or solicit subscriptions or subscription renewals on their behalf.
Through the state of Texas, consumers in the state said they were misled by the renewal notices, paid more and never received the publications requested through the subscription – even after payment was sent.
Complaints on the companies were filed with the Office of the Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Based on these complaints the court found that $31,172.27 should be paid to the consumers the companies allegedly committed fraud against. The full judgment of $424,000 was awarded as a factor to deter the companies from committing the violations again. Attorney fees were also awarded in the amount of $59,458.
The judgment also prohibits the three companies and anyone affiliated with them from sending written communications to any person or business in Texas to solicit subscriptions or renewals for any publication they are not authorized to do so. They cannot accept payment on these subscriptions or any subscription that they cannot fulfill.
Several Texas-based and national level publications subscription renewals were sent out by the three companies including names such as Forbes, National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Time Magazine and The New York Times.
The defendants must pay via cashier’s check or money order to the attorney general’s office. Late payments will result in an interest payment of 5 percent.