Federal prosecutors last summer disrupted local plans to fix prices for promotional products and pleaded guilty to online sellers of silicone wristbands, custom ropes and buttons. Now, customers who purchase high priced goods are queuing up for a refund.
So far, about six buyers of hawkers for disease promotion, charities and other reasons have filed lawsuits in federal courts in Houston against manufacturers of promotional products. They are seeking collective action status to represent thousands of other consumers and businesses whose marketing materials and conference equipment are overpaid. And they think their civil cases will be easier to prove, because the two main participants acknowledge their role in the conspiracy, so it's hard to refuse to refund customers who say they're overcharged.
Houston is home to several companies that customize coffee cups, pressure balls and T-shirts to be presented at trade shows, distributed to customers and presented to employees. According to the Promotional Products Association International, a trade group, U.S. sales in 2016 were $21.3 billion.
In 2004, when a new stunt appeared, the industry was quietly putting the name of the law firm on polo shirts and fertilizer brands. That year, the now disgraceful cycling champion and cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong, introduced a yellow silicone wristband with the word "Livestrong" on it to raise cancer awareness. The wristband sells millions, and inspires other charities to sell their own silicone suite.