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Columbus Dispatch Subscribers Sue Newspaper Over 'Premium Content'

Dave Newman (2009) /

A new lawsuit accuses The Columbus Dispatch and its parent company of using deceptive practices by billing customers for content they did not request and then changing their subscriptions.

The lawsuit from Dispatch subscribers John Ewalt and Steve Wylie says the paper’s owner, GateHouse Media, puts unsolicited “premium” content inside subscribers' papers. The suit says the paper then decreases the length of those subscriptions based on the determined value of those premium editions.

“In most instances," the suit reads, "these so-called premium editions have no connection to the subscriptions to The Dispatch—the item for which those customers agreed to pay—and are all but worthless.”

Examples listed in the lawsuit include a cook book, calendar, health guide and a dog magazine.

GateHouse’s policy on “premium content” is listed on the Dispatch website and in print editions, but the lawsuit claims “to reduce the likelihood that its customers would notice charges for premium editions, GateHouse does not separately bill customers for those premium editions. Rather… Gatehouse reduces the length of its customers’ subscriptions based on the arbitrary value that GateHouse assigns to these premium editions.”

Bradley Harmon, The Dispatch’s president and publisher, and Joseph Rolfe, the paper’s director of sales operations, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An email to GateHouse Media also was not immediately returned.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and asks the court to make it a class action suit.