Accused of Misleading Consumers With Mailings for Books

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WASHINGTON ( -- A Time Inc. book publishing unit agreed to pay $500,000 to settle charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission and the Wisconsin's attorney general's office.

The FTC accused Oxmoor House, part of Time Inc.'s Southern Progress book publishing unit, of using a "free trial" to get consumers to buy cookbooks and craft books without giving them sufficient information about how to stop receiving subsequent shipments.

Stop payment requests
In addition to the fine, Oxmoor house said it would stop requesting payment for books sent from 1996 to 2000. The titles in the series included The Best of Martha Stewart, Southern Living Christmas, Cooking Light Christmas, Great American Quilts, Southern Living Gardening and Weight Watchers Planner.

The FTC said the charges stem from differences in the way the company marketed the first and subsequent books in the various series.

The FTC complaint said a long lag time between first book and other books in some of the series, together with the change in procedure, misled consumers and violated several FTC rules or guidelines about the use of negative options and delivering products within 30 days of ordering. Consumers who didn't return any mailing got a book.

The FTC said it didn't know how much money Oxmoor would have to forgo from books sent during the four years, and the company called that information "proprietary."

Complied with changes
In a statement Oxmoor said, "At the time the FTC raised its concerns, we had already reviewed and made changes to our offer terms to make them even clearer for our customers, and we made the additional copy changes the FTC requested as quickly as possible. We always have been -- and will continue to be -- committed to clear communications with our customers."

The company said is has a "30-year history in the direct marketing business."

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