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Tokyo puzzle magazine publisher skipped out on years' worth of prizes to 3,600-plus readers

Publisher Shinyusha Co.'s puzzle magazines, which advertise prizes for contest winners selected by the firm, are seen in this Oct. 8, 2020 photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A publisher in the capital's Chiyoda Ward failed to send out prizes to more than 3,600 puzzle magazine contest winners since 2016, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

    Publisher Shinyusha Co. announced the issue on its website after being interviewed by the Mainichi, and offered "sincere apologies for the inconvenience." Though the firm says it will send out the prizes as soon as they are ready, the problem could be a violation of Japan's law against misleading representations.

    The affected magazines run puzzles, quizzes and spot-the-difference games, and attract readers by offering prize items. Readers can enter by sending in special postcards with the answers to certain puzzles, and the winners are drawn from those that answer correctly, among others. Contest prizes have included TVs, popular game consoles, luxury brand bags, cash and gift coupons.

    According to Shinyusha's website, prize items haven't been sent to winning readers of the company's 47 puzzle magazines of six varieties, including seasonal and monthly publications, and 10 campaigns stretching over several magazines. The magazines affected are those between "Machigai Sagashi Friends Vol. 6," released in June 2016, and "Nanmon Nanpure Friends Vol. 14," which came out this past June. The multi-magazine campaigns ran from July 2017 to February 2020.

    Shinyusha has not made it clear exactly how many people haven't got their prizes. The Mainichi could only confirm the number of winners for a total of seven campaigns in 17 magazines, totaling 3,629 people -- but it is highly likely that the figure will increase.

    Though each magazine did not mention a specific date to send out prizes, Shinyusha replied to reader queries on Twitter that "shipping will take a maximum of three to six months after the winners are selected." But as prizes had not arrived even for contests published in 2016, the company may have procrastinated picking the winners for a long time.

    A source close to Shinyusha revealed to the Mainichi that the company may have discarded postcards it had received from readers before even choosing winners. If true, Shinyusha, which says it "is proceeding with the shipping of prizes," cannot now conduct a fair draw.

    The company blamed a "discrepancy between our awareness and that of our contractor about the range of shipping work to be covered," and "not being able to get around to it because of how busy editorial work was." It says the problem came to light after an internal compliance investigation it conducted this past summer.

    The Mainichi asked for comment on Oct. 6, but Shinyusha published its views on its website dated Oct. 7, and had not provided concrete answers as of 7 p.m. on Oct. 8. The editing company believed to be the company's contractor commented, "We are not able to answer as we have the duty to maintain confidentiality."

    In a similar case, publisher Aiia Corp. claimed in eight of its magazines that it would award prizes to more than 12,000 people, but shipped items to only a little over 6,300 individuals. It was handed an administrative order by the Consumer Affairs Agency in December 2015 for violating the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations.

    (Japanese original by Ryotaro Ikawa, Tokyo Bureau)

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