Settlement reached over automatic subscription policies

Nick Rees Apr. 15, 2009, 12:30pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Renewing subscriptions and mailing updated copies of publications with bills without consumers' authorization has lead to an agreement between two companies and the state of Florida to stop the practice.

An investigation into Matthew Bender and Company, Inc., and related company Reed Elsevier, Inc., doing business as LexisNexis, began after
one of Attorney General Bill McCollum's staff members received a Florida Bar publication he had not ordered as well as bill for the cost of the book, owed to Matthew Bender.

Through the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Matthew Bender sent new editions and updates of publications automatically to customers who had purchased previous editions of the publications, sometimes as much as several years prior. Matthew Bender also automatically renewed annual subscriptions, allegedly without specific consent from consumers.

Refunds will be offered to all Florida customers who paid for automatic shipments of Florida Bar publications or who received their first automatic shipments of certain types of publications after February 13, 2005, as part of the settlement. Claim forms will be sent to all eligible customers by Matthew Bender, which will also pay the Florida State University Law School's Richard W. Ervin Eminent Scholar Chair $275,000.

The companies will pay an additional $2 million for attorneys' fees and costs and for future investigation and enforcement to the attorney general's office. Modifications will be made to the companies' practices nationwide as a measure to ensure automatic shipment arrangements and automatic renewal subscriptions are entered into only after appropriate disclosures detailed in the agreement are provided to customers, who must then agree to the terms.

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