|The settlements, totaling $232,600, include a payment
of $123,000 by MLBAM for the renovation of a baseball field in Highbridge
Park in Manhattan, new equipment and uniforms for four Little League
teams, $76,600 in total settlement payments to New York City, more than
$33,000 worth of memorabilia to be sold by the New York City Department
of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) at CityStore, and restitution
"We went to bat for baseball fans throughout the City and are
thrilled that the Little League athletes who play at Highbridge Park
will reap the benefits," said DCA Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra.
"Making deceptive claims, whether you're selling a used car or
an autographed baseball, betrays consumer trust and is against the
law. New York City has one the most stringent consumer protection
laws in the country to ensure the marketplace is fair. We're pleased
that MLB Advanced Media and Steiner Sports have agreed to play by
"Thanks to DCA's watchful eye, Highbridge Ballfield will be
an even better place for local youth leagues to enjoy," said
Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "This fall,
Parks will begin resodding and re-irrigating the field, which will
be completely renovated in time for the first pitch of 2006."
The DCA filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court on April
2, 2004 charging that MLBAM violated the City's laws and rules against
deceptive advertising. The DCA launched an investigation in May 2003
after MLBAM and Steiner emailed thousands of local fans promoting
the sale of autographed baseballs and "illuminated photographs"
at inflated prices by offering consumers other items that were said
to be "free" or by claiming that the items were priced "20%
off." In connection with this investigation, the DCA cited Steiner
Sports, a partner in one of the two promotions that ran.
In its lawsuit, the DCA asserted:
During the first May 2003 promotion, fans were
offered a "free" framed photograph when they bought
a baseball autographed by one of six "Superstars." In
order to get the "free" photograph (which MLBAM and
Steiner's email claimed was worth $49.95) with a ball autographed
by Derek Jeter, fans had to pay $516.95. This was $67.00 more
than MLBAM's regular price - i.e. even more than the ball's regular
price and the claimed value of the "free photo" combined
-- and $217.00 more than the price of the ball on Steiner's web
site at the time the promotion ran. Four of the other stars' autographed
baseballs were offered by the same e-mail at similar inflated
One week later, after dismal sales, the same
items were offered at "20% off" using the same inflated
To ensure consumers are protected from phony promotions, the City's
consumer protection law sets what guidelines advertisers must follow.
For example, advertisers cannot claim to have taken 20% off the
price of an item that has not actually been offered for sale for
a reasonably substantial period of time. Additionally, if a seller
offers a "FREE" item with the purchase of another item,
the item to be purchased may not be priced higher than its regular
As part of the settlement, MLBAM has:
Paid $123,000 to New York City for restoration
of Highbridge Park ballfield in Washington Heights (used by Little
Paid for new uniforms and equipment for four Alfonso
Little League teams.
Paid $60,000 to New York City.
As part of the settlement, Steiner Sports has:
Paid $16,666 to New York City.
Paid $340 in restitution to two City consumers
who purchased autographed balls in response to the promotion.
Contributed memorabilia with a wholesale value
of $33,333 to the City to be sold by CityStore, the Official Store
of the City of New York.
Highbridge Park, at 119 acres, is northern Manhattan's second-largest
park. It has been the focus of a targeted restoration and clean
up in which Parks & Recreation has partnered with Bette Midler's
New York Restoration Project and the City Parks Foundation to bring
public and private funds and neighborhood residents and environmental
organizations to the effort. This Washington Heights park hugs a
dramatic cliff overlooking the Harlem River, and stretches from
155th Street on the south to Dyckman Street on the north. The settlements
will be used for reconstruction, resodding, and re-irrigation of
the ballfield. Renovations will begin this fall after the baseball
season, and will be completed in time for the spring 2005 season.
The field will be extensively used by local schools and youth programs.
The memorabilia - which includes hand-signed photos, baseballs,
and other items -- will be sold beginning Monday, April 11 at the
lower Manhattan location of CityStore in the Manhattan Municipal
Building, 1 Centre Street, North Plaza (open Monday through Friday,
9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). All items also will be sold online at CityStore's
web site, www.nyc.gov/CityStore.
To file a complaint or for information on the City's Consumer Protection
Law, call 311 or go online to www.nyc.gov/consumers.