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Post date: October 27 1999

Campground To Refund Money Due To Deceptive Sweepstakes

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with a Saratoga County campground that used a misleading sweepstakes campaign to market its services.

American Campgrounds, Inc. of Gansevoort agreed to a settlement ending allegations made by Spitzer's office that it engaged in misleading and deceptive solicitations and violated New York State's Prize Award Schemes Law and Games of Chance Law.

"Aggressive and misleading use of sweepstakes to market membership campgrounds is a growing problem that continues to deceive consumers around the State and nation by luring consumers to the property to hold them captive for a sales pitch," Spitzer said. "My office will vigorously enforce consumer protection laws with respect to such contests and will require disclosure of important information to assist consumers in making informed choices."

According to the settlement, American Campgrounds has agreed to change its solicitations to provide disclosures as required by state law when using sweepstakes or other contests as promotions. American Campgrounds also must provide restitution of $60 to each consumer who fell prey to their "If The Key Fits, Drive It!" and "Carnival Cruise for Two" promotions and files a written complaint with the Attorney General prior to December 24. It is estimated up to 1,000 consumers are eligible.

Through direct mail and telephone solicitations, American Campgrounds offered consumers a chance to win a a Chevy Tahoe or $25,000 in cash in one contest; and a Carnival Cruise in another. Instead, each consumer who made a reservation and traveled to the campground instead received an inexpensive watch and a vacation certificate providing only lodging, which was subject to limited availability and requested guests to attend a time share sales solicitation.

Individuals interested in filing a complaint about American Campgrounds are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

American Campgrounds also agreed to pay $17,000 to cover penalties and investigation costs.

American Campgrounds settled a similar case with the Department of Law in 1990 regarding deceptive marketing programs.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Robert J. Vawter of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.