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October 1, 2008

For More Information, Contact:

Sarah Mason at (916) 651-4011

Hema Sareen Mohan at (650) 688-6384



PALO ALTO – State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced today that Governor Schwarzenegger has signed his Senate Bill 1400, which provides greater protection for the elderly and vulnerable against deceptive sweepstakes solicitations.  Simitian’s measure is the first such effort in the past 10 years.

“Folks are told they’re ‘specially selected’ or have ‘already won’ when that’s just not the case,” Simitian said.  “Gimmicks like so-called ‘official’ documents abound; and sweepstakes pitches too often skirt the ‘no purchase required’ provisions of current state law,” he said.

California was one of the first states to enact a sweepstakes law in 1998, but aside from minor technical changes, it has not been updated since.  In that time, other states have enacted tougher laws.  “Simply put,” Simitian said, “the law hasn’t been keeping up with the scammers.” 

Simitian’s bill targets new deceptive sweepstakes practices that have surfaced in recent years to prey on Californians, particularly senior citizens, with the following new rules:

·      Expands the current protections to include solicitations that appear to be sweepstakes but are technically not sweepstakes because they offer         information about a sweepstakes for a fee.

·      Prohibits mailers from falsely claiming that someone is specially selected or receiving special attention.

·      Prohibits mailers from falsely claiming that a recipient is being contacted for the second or last time.

·      Requires that a sweepstakes that claims it is urgent to disclose the final date one must enter to be considered in that sweepstakes.

·      Prohibits mailers from creating a false impression that the mailer is a government document, prepared by a lawyer, insurance or brokerage company.

·      Requires mailers to disclose in the officials rules the dates the final winners will be determined.

·      Prohibits sweepstakes from charging a fee to receive a monetary prize or obtain information about a prize.

“The public is particularly susceptible to this kind of thing in a difficult economy.” Simitian said.  “When folks are worried or desperate, they’re easy targets.”

SB 1400 was proposed by Lisa Conrad of Menlo Park and is one of the winning entries in Simitian’s annual ‘There Oughta Be A Law’ contest, which invites Californians to submit ideas for new state legislation.  Conrad was concerned about friends and family members who’ve been victimized by deceptive sweepstakes practices. 

“I know there are laws on the books already,” Conrad said, “but they don’t seem to be working. Particularly annoying is the fact that so-called sweepstakes prey on the most vulnerable members of the community.”

In 2000, California joined two-dozen other states in suing Publishers Clearing House, who used misleading sweepstakes prize promotions to defraud many Californians out of thousands of dollars.  The investigation resulted in a 26-state $34 million settlement and led many states to enact stronger sweepstakes protections in response to the scandal.  Simitian’s bill brings California’s laws in line with the reforms adopted in states such as Colorado, Oregon and Texas.

Simitian is the author of several bills to prevent elder abuse, including a 2006 law to prevent elder financial abuse in reverse mortgages, and a 2005 law requiring financial institutions to report elder financial abuse.  SB 1400 has the support of many senior advocacy groups including the AARP, as well as the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and consumer groups.

To learn more about SB 1400, please visit