Firm to repay Md. victims of deceptive prize offer


A Las Vegas, Nev., company that lured Marylanders with the prospect of a "millionaire's treasure" must part with some of its own under an agreement reached with the state attorney general's office.

The company, Honeywell & Roberts Inc., which sponsors prize contests, has agreed to stop sending "deceptive solicitations" to Maryland residents and will pay $16,175 into a restitution fund for Marylanders who sent illegal "judging fees" to the company, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. announced yesterday.

The agreement, approved by the state Consumer Protection Division, said that Honeywell & Roberts' mailings created the false impression that consumers had won a valuable prize. In the "millionaire's treasure" mailings, "guaranteed prize winners" were told that they would be eligible for the $10,000 grand prize if they correctly answered a simple question and sent in a $5 judging fee.

The question: "Which of the following is not a flower?" The possible answers: carnation, daisy, sparrow or rose.

Respondents got a second solicitation that offered an added prize and asked them to send additional amounts up to $15, said Jacqueline Mintz, an assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division.

According to the attorney general's office, it is illegal under Maryland law to require any payment to claim a prize.

The consent order, which follows a Dec. 14 cease-and-desist order, also applies to three other Honeywell & Roberts games: Queen's Million, CashGram and Magic Millions.

Mr. Curran said the action against Honeywell & Roberts was the first taken under a new law, effective last October, that allows the Consumer Protection Division to issue a cease-and-desist order without a hearing in cases where potential victims might not be able to get refunds easily. Previously, Mr. Curran said, a mailing like Honeywell & Roberts' might have continued for a year before the state could take action.

In the agreement, Honeywell & Roberts admitted that consumers could have been misled into believing they would win cash by answering the question. The only guaranteed prize was a package of discount coupons of little value.

Consumers who paid money to Honeywell & Roberts can claim refunds by calling 528-8662. The company will replenish the restitution account if claims exceed $16,175.

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