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Business and Professions Code

DIVISION 7. GENERAL BUSINESS REGULATIONS

PART 3. REPRESENTATIONS TO THE PUBLIC

Chapter 1. Advertising

Article 2. Particular Offenses

Section 17533.6

17533.6. Solicitations implying governmental connection. (a) It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, or association that is a nongovernmental entity to solicit information, or to solicit the purchase of or payment for a product or service, or to solicit the contribution of funds or membership fees, by means of a mailing, electronic message, or Internet Web site that contains a seal, emblem, insignia, trade or brand name, or any other term symbol, or content that reasonably could be interpreted or construed as implying any federal, state, or local government connection, approval, or endorsement, unless the requirements of paragraph (1) or (2) have been met, as follows:

(1) The nongovernmental entity has an expressed connection with, or the approval or endorsement of, a federal, state, or local government entity, if permitted by other provisions of law.

(2) The solicitation meets all of the following requirements:

(A) The solicitation conspicuously displays the following disclosure on the front and back of every page of the solicitation:

"THIS PRODUCT OR SERVICE HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED OR ENDORSED BY ANY GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY, AND THIS OFFER IS NOT BEING MADE BY AN AGENCY OF THE GOVERNMENT."

(B) In the case of a mailed solicitation, the front of the envelope, outside cover, or wrapper in which the matter is mailed conspicuously displays the following disclosure:

"THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT."

(C) The disclosure in subparagraph (A) shall be displayed conspicuously, as provided in subdivision (d), and immediately below each portion of the solicitation that reasonably could be construed to specify an amount due and payable by the recipient. The disclosure in subparagraph (B) shall be displayed conspicuously, as provided in subdivision (d), and immediately below the area of the envelope, outside cover, or wrapper that is used for a return address. The disclosures in subparagraphs (A) and (B) shall not be preceded, followed, or surrounded by symbols, terms, or other content that result in the disclosures not being conspicuous or that introduce, modify, qualify, or explain the text of those disclosures.

(D) The solicitation does not use a title or trade or brand name that reasonably could be interpreted or construed as implying any federal, state, or local government connection, approval, or endorsement, including, but not limited to, use of the term "agency," "administrative," "assessor," "board," "bureau," "collector," "commission," "committee," "department," "division," "recorder," "unit," "federal," "state," "county," "city," or "municipal," or the name or division of any government agency.

(E) The solicitation does not specify a date or time period when payment to the soliciting nongovernmental person, firm, corporation, or association is due, including, but not limited to, use of the terms "due date," "due now," "remit by," "remit immediately," "payment due," "pay now," "pay immediately," or "pay no later than," unless the solicitation displays, in the same sentence as the date or time period specified, how the information being solicited will be used, a description of the product or service that is to be provided and to what government agency it shall be rendered, or how the solicited funds or membership fees will be used, as applicable.

(F) The solicitation does not state or imply that payment to any person, firm, corporation, or association that is not a government entity is mandatory or required by law, or state or imply that penalties, fines, or consequences will occur if payment is not made to the soliciting nongovernmental person, firm, corporation, or association.

(b) Notwithstanding Section 17534, any violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(c) Any person who is harmed as a result of a violation of this section shall be entitled to recover, in addition to any other available remedies, damages in an amount equal to three times the amount solicited.

(d) For purposes of this section, "conspicuous" or "conspicuously" means displayed apart from other print on the page, envelope, outside cover, or wrapper and in not less than 12-point boldface font type in capital letters that is at least 2-point boldface font type sizes larger than the next largest print on the page, envelope, outside cover, or wrapper and in contrasting type, layout, font, or color in a manner that clearly calls attention to the language.

History.—Added by Stats. 1993, Ch. 348 (AB 532), in effect January 1, 1994. Amended by Stats. 1997, Ch. 249 (AB 1178), in effect January 1, 1998. Stats. 2002, Ch. 319 (SB 1240), in effect January 1, 2003, added ", electronic message, or Internet Web site" after "of a mailing" in the first sentence of the first paragraph, substituted "type" for "printing" after "color with other" in the first sentence of paragraph (1) and added "In the case of a mailed solicitation," before "the envelope or" in the first sentence of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b). Stats. 2008, Ch. 256 (AB 2919), in effect January 1, 2009, designated the former first paragraph as subdivision (a) and substituted "paragraph (1) or (2)" for "subdivision (a) or (b)" after "the requirements of" in the first sentence therein; designated former subdivisions (a) and (b) as paragraphs (1) and (2), respectively, of subdivision (a) and designated former paragraphs (1) and (2) as subparagraphs (A) and (B), respectively, of paragraph (2) therein; and added subdivisions (b) and (c). Stats. 2009, Ch. 140 (AB 1164), in effect January 1, 2010, substituted "GOVERNMENTAL" for "GOVERNMENT" after "BY ANY" in the second sentence of subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) and substituted "governmental" for "government" after "or local" in the first sentence of paragraph (1) of subdivision (c). Stats. 2011, Ch. 269 (AB 75), in effect January 1, 2012, added "emblem," after "a seal", substituted "symbol, or content" for "or, symbol" after "other term", and substituted "federal, state," for "state" after "implying any" in the first sentence of the first paragraph, substituted "federal, state," for "state" after "of, a" in the first sentence of paragraph (1), substituted "all" for "both" after "solicitation meets" in the first sentence of paragraph (2), substituted "conspicuously displays the following disclosure on the front and back of every page of the solicitation" for "bears on its face, in conspicuous and legible type in contrast by typography, layout, or color with other type on its face, the following notice" after "The solicitation" in the first sentence of subparagraph (A), substituted "front of the envelope, outside cover," for "envelope or outside cover" after "solicitation, the" and substituted "conspicuously displays the following disclosure" for "bears on its face in capital letters and in conspicuous and legible type, the following notice:" after "is mailed" in the first sentence of subparagraph (B) and added subparagraphs (C), (D), (E), and (F) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a); deleted former subdivisions (b) and (c) which provided that "(b) Except as provided in subdivision (c), any business that solicits the purchase of, or payment for, a service by means of an unsolicited mailing that offers to assist the recipient in dealing with a state or local governmental agency shall do both of the following:

(1) State on the envelope and in the mailing that the business is not a governmental agency and is not associated with the governmental agency referenced.

(2) Include in the mailing the contact information for the governmental agency referenced.

(c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply if either of the following requirements has been met:

(1) The business has an expressed connection with, or the approval or endorsement of, a state or local governmental entity, if permitted by other provisions of law.

(2) The business has an "established business relationship," as defined in Section 1798.83 of the Civil Code, with the recipient."; and added subdivisions (b), (c), and (d).

Note:—Section 2 of the Stats. 2002, Ch. 319 (SB 1240), provided that no reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.

Note.—Section 11 of Stats. 2011, Ch. 269 (AB 75), provided that no reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.