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Post date: May 3 2004

Hudson Valley Supermarkets To Reform Sweepstakes

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement that will require a group of Hudson Valley supermarkets to make dramatic changes in the way it conducts sweepstakes.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc., d/b/a A & P Food Stores, which operates nearly 30 supermarket stores in Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess and Putnam Counties, settled allegations that its sweepstakes violated consumer protection laws by failing to provide entry procedures for customers not purchasing items from its stores.

A & P conducted a recent series of sweepstakes in the Hudson Valley area offering prizes such as a big screen television, a $500 shopping spree, a ski vacation and tickets to a professional basketball game. Consumers who purchased designated products using their A & P Bonus Savings Card were automatically entered in the sweepstakes. However, consumers who went to an A & P store but did not make a purchase were unable to obtain an entry form for the sweepstakes. Ultimately, only those consumers who purchased products using their Bonus Saving Cards won sweepstakes prizes.

"Companies that use sweepstakes to market their products should be aware that under federal law consumers must be given an opportunity to enter and win the sweepstakes even if they do not purchase a product," Spitzer said.

Spitzer's investigation also revealed that the sweepstakes violated the state's "Games of Chance Law" because it was not registered with the Secretary of State and because
A & P failed to maintain a bond in an amount sufficient to pay for the total value of the prizes offered. Moreover, A & P failed to conspicuously post at its retail locations the rules and regulations of the sweepstakes, the minimum number and value of the prizes available, and the geographic area of the promotion, as required by law.

In settling the investigation, A & P is required to:

  • Register its sweepstakes promotions with the Secretary of State prior to the commencement of the contest;
  • Maintain a bond for each sweepstakes promotion sufficient to pay for the total cost of all prizes offered;
  • Specify the minimum number of prize-winning objects that will be included in the promotion, the chances of winning each prize, and the minimum value of each prize;
  • Ensure that staff at all participating retail establishments are familiar with ongoing sweepstakes promotions and are capable of directing consumers to non-purchase methods of entry;
  • Make entry forms readily available at its retail locations, regardless of whether the consumer has made a purchase; and
  • Conspicuously post a statement at each retail location setting forth the minimum number and value of the prizes available, the geographic area of the promotion, and the contest's rules and regulations.

A & P also agreed to pay $38,000 in civil penalties and costs.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Doris K. Morin under the supervision of Gary S. Brown, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Westchester Regional Office.

Consumers can obtain information regarding sweepstakes tips on the Attorney General's web site at www.ag.ny.gov. To file a complaint about a sweepstakes, individuals are directed to call the consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.