VarsityBooks.com Accused of False Advertising

The National Association of College Stores Inc. (NACS), a trade association for the collegiate retailing industry, filed a federal lawsuit against VarsityBooks.com, accusing the college textbook marketer of making false and misleading advertising claims.

The suit accuses VarsityBooks of claiming to offer college textbooks at a 40 percent discount when in reality, VarsityBooks offers only a small percentage of its books at 40 percent below what it calls the “Suggested Price” that it lists for books.

There was no immediate response from the bookseller. The suit claims that NACS and its member stores have and will suffer irreparable damage from VarsityBooks’ alleged false claims.

According to the suit, “VarsityBooks’ advertisements falsely imply that NACS member stores overcharged students for textbooks,” thereby causing them irreparable harm.

The suit further states that the “Suggested Price” utilized by VarsityBooks’ Web site is falsely identified as the price “publishers suggest that bookstores charge for new textbooks.” According to NACS, no such “Suggested Price” exists in the college textbook publishing industry.

“We are acting on behalf of the 13 million college students and 500,000 faculty served by college stores,” said Brian Cartier, NACS chief staff officer.

“Our members are deeply concerned that students are being duped into believing they’re saving 40 percent on textbooks when such claims are completely false.”

“NACS is not opposed to online bookselling,” Cartier said in a press release. “In fact, many NACS members have embraced e-commerce and are successfully selling textbooks and other merchandise online.

We welcome fair competition. We simply cannot stand idly by, however, when huge sums of money are being spent on deceptive advertising and promotional campaigns directed at college students.”

The suit asks the court to prevent VarsityBooks from using any advertising stating that VarsityBooks offers discounts or percentages off textbooks “unless Varsity identifies, clearly and prominently, the true bases for the claimed discount.”

The suit also seeks to prevent VarsityBooks from using the term “Suggested Price” unless the publisher of the product issues a stated suggested price for the product.

The National Association of College says it represents more than 3,000 higher education retailers in the U.S., Canada, and abroad.

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