MN Attorney General sues magazine company

Published: Jun. 9, 2016 at 10:15 AM CDT
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Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed a lawsuit against Your Magazine Service Inc., a Minnesota corporation, for using deceptive sales tactics to sign up consumers—many of them seniors—for magazine packages that cost almost $1,000.

The company’s owner, Wayne R. Dahl, Jr., is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

“The company charged people hundreds of dollars for magazine packages after falsely telling them it was just calling to provide a billing credit on an existing account,” said Attorney General Swanson.

“People should be hyper-cautious of telemarketers who sell magazine subscriptions. They may already have your credit card or bank information from another magazine company. Just by talking to them, you may end up unwittingly getting charged for magazines you don’t want.”

The company used a generic name, “Your Magazine Service,” to call consumers, pose as their existing magazine provider, and offer them a phony “credit” that would save them as much as $150 on their account. In fact, the purpose of the call was to enroll people in magazine packages that cost up to $998.

The company targeted people who had already been sold magazine packages by another company. As a result, the company already had people’s personal information and banking or credit card information.

In one email from 2011, Dahl told a vendor from which he had purchased call lists: “…at least 50% of them are 68 yrs old or older!!!! If one of them ever contact an AG [attorney general] lord knows theyre definitely gonna want blood for selling vulnerable elderly people, or there is a great chance of it.”

If a consumer asked if the call was to sell more magazines, the company’s script instructed telemarketers to say: “Oh, this isn’t for any more. This is for what you’re already getting.”

The company signed up people for magazines subscriptions to magazines in which they had no interest. For example, the company signed up an 87 year old blind woman for magazines after she repeatedly told them she was going blind and couldn’t read them.

It charged a 75 year old truck driver over $4,000 for five magazine packages, including to Golf Week and Budget Travel. He says in his statement: “I have never golfed in my life and, as a truck driver, I have done enough budget travelling for one lifetime.”

The company usually charged people recurring monthly payments of $29.90, $39.90, or $49.90. The company often signed people up for multiple magazine packages, including at least 1,586 people who were enrolled in three or more packages.

The company signed up some elderly consumers for subscriptions that did not expire until they were over 100 years-old. For example, a 94 year old who the company signed up for two packages would be 103 when her final subscription expires.

At least 20 of the company’s telemarketers were previously convicted of crimes of dishonesty. For example, one telemarketer who signed consumers up for over 300 magazine packages was convicted of theft five times.

Another telemarketer who signed consumers up for 800 magazine packages was previously convicted of burglary and forgery.

The Attorney General’s Office warns consumers to be vigilant if they receive telemarketing calls from magazine companies. Many magazine telemarketers use ploys, such as a promise of a discount, prize, gift, or free magazines, to unknowingly sign people up for magazines they don’t want.

The Office provides these tips to consumers:

• Be on guard if someone calls you from a magazine company, even if they claim they’re not trying to sell you anything.

• Magazine telemarketers often charge grossly inflated prices for magazines you could buy directly from the publisher at a dramatically lower rate.

• If you’re not interested, hang up the phone.

The lawsuit was filed in Carver County District Court and seeks civil penalties, restitution, and injunctive relief.

Dahl moved to Loxahatchee, Florida from Eden Prairie, Minnesota about six months ago, after the Attorney General’s Office served the company with a Civil Investigative Demand.

People may report complaints about magazine companies to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office by calling (651) 296 3353 or (800) 657 3787.