Crain Communications is the parent of Advertising Age and the publisher of more than 30 trade newspapers and magazines. Its corporate headquarters is located in Detroit.
In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Michigan, Crain also alleges that it had to offer consumers complimentary AutoWeek subscriptions to fill the orders that agents were never supposed to sell in the first place.
'No merit to claims'
"We think there is no merit to the claims," said David P. Lennon, an attorney who represents a number of the agents named in the suit. "We intend to raise the appropriate issues with the court. My clients, I think, have dealt with similar litigations like this in the past and have been successful."
Individual agents named in the suit could not be reached at press time, declined to comment or did not return messages left seeking comment.
Although big publishers often rely on legitimate third-party agents to market and service subscriptions to their magazines, the practices of independent agents have garnered increasing attention, particularly as advertisers and agencies demand more information about magazines' precise sources of paid circulation.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations created an Agent Compliance Evaluation program earlier this year and got its first taker in September, when Magazines.com of Franklin, Tenn., agreed to take part. Bridget Wells, a former Hearst director of partnership marking, agency and Audit Bureau of Circulations services, has proposed establishing a not-for-profit to police independent agents.