Hawaii residents to share in Time Magazine refunds
The publisher of Time magazine has agreed to pay nearly $4.5 million to end investigations by 23 states, including Hawaii, into whether it deceptively marketed and billed people for subscription renewals, officials said yesterday.
Time Inc. also agreed to make about $4.3 million available in refunds, said Stephen Levins, executive director of the state Office of Consumer Protection.
About 108,000 customers in 23 states are eligible to share the refund money and will receive a mailing in three months with a refund request form.
The $4.5 million will cover the cost of states to investigate Time, which also publishes Fortune, People, Sports Illustrated and more than 40 other magazines in the United States.
About 1,000 Hawaii consumers will be eligible for a total $43,854 in refunds and the state will receive $75,000 for attorney's fees, costs and consumer education.
Between 1998 and May 2004, Time required readers to cancel a subscription if they no longer wanted it, instead of giving them the option to renew it when it was about to expire, said Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett.
As a result, Time billed people or charged their credit cards for subscriptions they never ordered, Corbett said.
In many cases, the automatic renewal notices resembled billing invoices, prompting people to pay them, sometimes out of fear of repercussion.
Time also agreed to stop using magazine renewal solicitations that resemble invoices, to stop using collection agents for unpaid bills of automatically renewed customers and to refund people for magazines they did not order.