Honolulu Star-Bulletin - Kokua Line

Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Tuesday, September 28, 1999

Lawyers, fees can eat up
most of a class-action

Question: I received a notice about a class-action lawsuit against Publishers Clearing House. Can you help explain what it all means? If I join it, will I have to help pay for the lawyers?

Answer: You won't have to pay anything if you join in the private lawsuit, which charges that the company deceived consumers into thinking they had to buy something to enter and win sweepstakes.

However, that's not what concerns attorneys general and consumer protectors across the nation.

The concern is that consumers may not be adequately compensated, said Stephen Levins, interim executive director for the state Office of Consumer Protection.

"It's a (proposed) $10 million settlement, but attorneys' fees and other costs could take away about $6 million of that," Levins said. About $3 million is estimated for attorney fees and $3 million for administrative and other costs.

"So only $4 million is left for all consumer victims. My information is that consumers spent more than a billion dollars for magazines and merchandise during the time covered by the settlement. So if consumers even accept a partial refund under the settlement, it would perhaps just be pennies and they wouldn't be able to receive restitution from any other action" that might be filed against Publishers Clearing House.

You would have to make that determination on your own.

"We can't provide legal advice to individuals," Levins said. However, if anyone wants to opt out of the settlement -- a decision has to be made by Oct. 18 -- Levins said his office has forms available to do so. Call 587-3222.

Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth has urged Floridians to opt out.

In a news release, Butterworth cautioned, "If the value of requested refunds exceeds ($4 million), the company can issue pro rata refunds rather than full refunds."

Anyone who received solicitations from Publishers Clearing House from Feb. 1, 1992, through June 30, 1999, is included in the class action.

Butterworth said Florida is considering filing its own civil complaint alleging the firm violated the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.


To all you drivers getting off at the Wilder Street exit (Ewa-bound). You are all going 40-50 mph in a residential area. There are children crossing the street, riding their bikes and playing. This is someone's neighborhood, not a business district or major thoroughfare. Will it take someone getting hit or killed before you slow down? -- No name


To the woman who noticed I dropped some money when I was in Sears Ala Moana about 3 p.m. on Sept. 9. I was organizing my money to pay a bill and didn't realize I had dropped the money. I am really grateful. -- No name


To the "road jerk" driving a gray Toyota with an American flag in his license plate about 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12. Where the H-1 freeway turns into Kalanianaole Highway, I observed you meanly speed up to cut off a white car that was trying to merge into traffic. Then, all the way to the Costco area, you kept weaving in and out of the lanes without signaling but also without gaining any distance. You are the kind of person who contributes to road rage. Learn to be more courteous. -- Carl

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
Email to kokualine@starbulletin.com

E-mail to City Desk

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