April 20, 2015

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is urging North Carolinians who get notices asking them to renew a magazine or newspaper subscription to review those notices carefully.

Consumers who subscribe to magazines and newspapers often get messages urging them to renew their subscriptions, but those renewal offers don't always come from the actual publisher. Independent subscription agents send renewal offers by mail and email, sometimes charging far higher prices than it would cost to renew directly with publications.

"These offers to renew a magazine or newspaper subscription may look legitimate but actually cost you far more money than you need to pay," Cooper cautioned.

Just this week, the North Carolina Attorney General's Financial Fraud Unit sent a civil investigative demand (CID) to Publishers Billing Association, a company that sends subscription renewal notices to consumers. The CID gives the Oregon company until May 7 to produce documents, including information on its sales practices, a list of North Carolina consumers with whom it has done business, and proof of any agreements it claims to have entered into with North Carolina publications.

A total of 16 consumers have filed complaints with Cooper's Consumer Protection Division against Publishers Billing Association over the past few years, with half of those complaints coming in 2014. Consumers filed similar complaints against other companies which investigators are reviewing for possible links to Publishers Billing Association.

Cooper first warned consumers about subscription renewal scams last fall, when a number of North Carolina publications began reporting that their readers were being targeted by unauthorized renewal messages.

If you are considering renewing a subscription to a magazine or newspaper, make sure the renewal offer comes from the company that subscribed you in the first place. To be on the safe side, contact the company directly via information listed in the publication or on its website to see if you are due to renew your subscription. You can also check rates for renewing directly through the magazine or newspaper before you agree to renew through a third party.