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MONTVALE, N.J. - The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. here must revamp its sweepstakes at its stores in Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam counties in New York, so that consumers who don't buy products can become eligible for prizes, New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer said this week.
A&P agreed to pay $38,000 in civil penalties and change its contest rules at 26 Hudson Valley stores that violated federal and state law.
"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 in a statement. The Attorney General's Office began investigating A&P's sweepstakes in October after complaints by consumers.
The sweepstakes offered prizes such as a big-screen television, a $500 shopping spree, a ski vacation, and tickets to a professional basketball game. The investigation found widespread violations of state consumer protection laws. Consumers had to buy store-designated products using an A&P Bonus Savings Card, which automatically made them eligible for the sweepstakes. Consumers who did not make purchases were unable to obtain entry forms, and only those who did won prizes, Spitzer's office said.
The sweepstakes violated the state's games-of-chance law because they weren't registered with the state Secretary of State's Office.
A&P also failed to maintain a bond in an amount sufficient to pay for the total value of the prizes offered. Some stores also failed to conspicuously post 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.