ATLANTA – A publishing company and it’s owner have entered into a settlement on allegations of illegal and deceptive telemarketing activities in Georgia.
Attorney General Chris Carr announced that the Office of the Attorney General has entered into a settlement with Evergreen Publishing Group LLC, Readers Services, Inc. and their owner, Chris Sidhilall. The settlement resolves allegations that the companies, which are no longer in business, engaged in illegal and deceptive telemarketing activities in the course of selling magazine subscriptions to older and disabled adults.
“We are deeply committed to protecting Georgia’s older and disabled adults from harm, including against bad actors who target them with deceptive business practices,” said Carr. “This type of illegal activity will not be tolerated in our state, and we will pursue any company that seeks to exploit our most vulnerable populations. Georgia has strong consumer protection laws that our office is proud to uphold, and those who attempt to circumvent these laws will be held accountable for their actions.”
Mr. Sidhilall previously owned and operated America’s Choice Publishers, which entered into a settlement with the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection (as the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division was formerly known) to resolve similar allegations.
Carr alleges that Evergreen Publishing Group, Readers Services and Mr. Sidhilall committed multiple violations of Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act, including:
- Collecting or attempting to collect payment for goods or services without customers’ express verifiable authorization;
- Representing or implying that they were associated with magazines to which consumers are currently subscribed and/or that they are calling to renew consumers’ current magazine subscriptions, when, in fact, there was no such association and the purpose of the call was to solicit new magazine subscription sales; and
- Representing that they were conducting a promotion in which consumers were entering a sweepstakes, and inducing consumers to purchase magazines based on these representations, when, in fact, no sweepstakes were held, and no prizes were awarded.
In resolution of these allegations, the companies and Mr. Sidhilall have entered into a settlement with the Attorney General’s Office in which they have agreed to:
- Cease and refrain from engaging in telemarketing;
- Cease and refrain from attempting to collect any payments from consumers and notify consumers currently engaged in contracts with the companies that the contracts are cancelled without penalty to the consumers;
- Cease and refrain from attempting to collect past due amounts from consumers; and
- Cease collection on, reduce to a zero balance, and turn over to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division all Georgia consumer accounts the companies own, amounting to a contract value of at least $94,533.90.
The settlement also requires that the companies and Mr. Sidhilall pay $15,000 for a restitution account to be administered by the Consumer Protection Division and $135,000 to the Attorney General’s Office to be used for purposes that may include, but are not limited to, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, investigation and litigation costs, future consumer protection or privacy enforcement, and consumer education. Should the companies fail to fully comply with the settlement during a five-year monitoring period, they will be required to pay an additional $617,000 to the state.
Consumers who paid Evergreen Publishing Group LLC or Readers Services, Inc. for products or services may be entitled to compensation under the settlement and should fill out and submit a prescribed claim form, along with supporting documentation, to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Claim forms must be postmarked or faxed no later than 5:00 p.m. ET on April 29, 2022, to be considered for restitution.
Eligibility for Restitution
To be eligible for restitution under the settlement, consumers must demonstrate that, due to the alleged deceptive acts and practices of Evergreen Publishing Group LLC or Readers Services, Inc., they:
- Paid for products and/or services that they would not have otherwise paid for; or
- Were charged for products and/or services that they did not purchase and/or did not authorize; or
- Paid for but did not receive all purchased products and/or services; and
- Have not received a refund from Evergreen Publishing Group LLC, Readers Services, Inc., or a third party for the amounts paid.
Filing a Claim
You can download the claim form here .
Completed claims and any documentation should be submitted by mail, overnight delivery or fax to:
Georgia Department of Law – Consumer Protection Division
ATTN: Evergreen Publishing Group, LLC Restitution
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE, Suite 356
Atlanta, GA 30334-9077
Fax number: (404) 651-9018
You may NOT submit the claim form by email.
Claims must be postmarked or faxed no later than 5:00 p.m. ET on April 29, 2022.
Within 60 days after the conclusion of the Claim Period, the Consumer Protection Division will send, via United States First Class Mail, restitution checks to eligible claimants. Whether a person has sufficiently demonstrated eligibility for restitution and the amount of restitution due to any person shall be within the discretion of the Attorney General’s Office. In the event that the total value of eligible restitution claims exceeds the amount of funds in the restitution account, the funds in the account will be distributed pro rata.
Consumers who fail to submit all of the required information by April 29, 2022, will forfeit all claims to which they would be eligible under this settlement agreement.