American Society of Magazine Editors

FTC Takes Action Against “Rogue Agents”

Following enforcement actions taken by attorneys general in five states last year, and more than five years after MPA first brought the issue of rogue agents to the attention of the FTC, MPA is pleased with the FTC’s announcement on May 3 that it is taking legal action against a group of rogue agents for using fraudulent subscription notices to deceive consumers.

The FTC’s complaint describes how these agents sent unauthorized subscription renewal notices to consumers, making it appear that the notices were coming from a variety of well-known newspapers and magazines. The notices were sent without the authorization of the newspapers and magazines, and often quoted a subscription price considerably higher than the magazine or newspaper’s actual subscription price. To skirt cease-and-desist orders from the magazines and newspapers, the defendants named in the FTC complaint established a complex network of shell corporations to process the renewal notices. MPA applauds the FTC’s action to close down the fraudulent renewal operation and obtain monetary damages to repay consumers harmed by the actions of these rogue agents and companies.

Both MPA and the Newspaper Association of America provided information and materials to the FTC consumer protection and enforcement staff.  MPA also brought this issue to the attention of the Postal Service’s Inspection Service.  Rogue agents have been a long-standing problem for magazine and newspaper publishers and stopping these fraudulent renewal operations will benefit both subscribers and publishers.