CONSUMER ALERT: BE SKEPTICAL OF SOME SPORTS SCHEDULE SOLICITATIONS

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July 25, 2012

LITTLE ROCK - While coaches are drawing up plays for the upcoming football season, solicitors are dialing up Arkansas businesses asking them to purchase advertisements on sports schedules and calendars.

Arkansans are passionate about their hometown athletic teams and they want to do their part to support those teams as the fall sports season approaches. Business owners often decide to buy advertising space on schedules, and proceeds from those ads typically benefit schools or their athletic programs. However, some solicitors see sports calendars as a way to make a profit for themselves while merely appearing to be affiliated with a school or organization.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today to inform business owners about state law regarding those who solicit advertisements for school calendars or schedules, and to encourage advertisers to research the solicitor's sales pitch before buying an ad.

"Sometimes, business owners who believe their advertising dollars are supporting an athletic program down the street may instead be sending money to an out-of-state company," McDaniel said. "To avoid that, business owners should know that state law requires solicitors to disclose whether they are affiliated with a school or whether schools receive any proceeds from their sales."

Anyone who solicits advertisements for posters or other printed material depicting a school name, mascot or emblem in conjunction with an athletic program is subject to the state's school calendars disclosure law. Those solicitors must disclose whether a school will receive money as a result of the solicitation, and if so, how much.

Those solicitors who do not give any money to the school must disclose -- both orally and in writing at the time of the solicitation -- that the school will not receive any funding as a result of the sale.

Violators are subject to penalties under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

McDaniel said business owners should remain cautious as it relates to these types of solicitations, citing a recent instance in Jonesboro where an advertiser was solicited to buy ad space on an Arkansas State University football schedule. A business reported that the solicitor claimed to be affiliated with the university, although he was not. The solicitor also promised mentions of the schedule sponsorship during radio broadcasts of ASU football games, according to the business. He had no authority to do so.

To avoid similar situations, McDaniel said business owners should contact a school directly to make sure school officials are aware of the solicitations or are working with the advertising company. Although it is natural to assume that anyone promoting a school's athletic schedule has permission to do so, that isn't always the case.

Also, ask questions of the solicitor and read the fine print of any contract before signing it.

Arkansans with questions about this or any other consumer-related issue can contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2341, or visit www.GotYourBackArkansas.org.

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