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Time Inc. Facing Florida State Inquiry
Over Sales Practices

Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — Magazine publishing giant Time Inc. is under investigation by the Florida attorney general's office after more than 100 complaints that the company engaged in deceptive and unfair business practices.

The investigation stems from consumers who say they received solicitations for magazine subscriptions in the mail that looked like bills.

Others claim they received magazines, books, compact discs and other merchandise they never ordered — and then were billed by the company, Assistant Attorney General Victoria Butler told the Tampa Tribune.

"The theme is unauthorized charges or unauthorized merchandise and not enough disclosure to the consumer," Butler said.

Time Inc. spokesman Peter Costiglio said the company, a unite of AOL Time Warner, does not send bills to people who have not ordered magazines or merchandise. "I am baffled to understand why they would have received a bill," Costiglio said. "There's never been any intention to mislead or confuse a potential or current customer."

Complaints have come from all over the nation, including several that have been forwarded by the Better Business Bureau, Butler said. The probe is being conducted at the attorney general's regional office in Tampa, where Time Inc.'s customer service center is based.

One complainant, James Chester, a vice president at IBM, says that one day he got the magazine ECompany Now in his mailbox, without ever having ordered it. Chester told authorities he then got bills from Time Inc. demanding a $19.98 subscription payment.

Chester says he called Time several times to explain he had not ordered a subscription to the magazine. Deliveries stopped, but the bills kept coming, he said.

Also, the invoices began warning his name would be put in Time's "bad debt file," and threatened "additional collection measures" unless he paid, Chester said.

"By the end, I thought, `This is just over the line,"' Chester said.

Time is reviewing the scores of complaints, and will respond to each one, Costiglio said. Some of the cases, he said, already have been resolved.

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