-- Attorney General Anne Milgram announced
today that the state has entered into a
multi-state settlement agreement with the
New Jersey-based Educational Research Center
of America, Inc. requiring that the company
change its procedures for collecting and
handling personal information about junior
high and high school students.
The settlement resolves allegations by New
Jersey and 33 other states that ERCA offered
gift cards to teachers and counselors in
return for distributing its student surveys.
The states also alleged that ERCA used its
surveys to collect personal information
about students, but never disclosed to students
and their parents how to opt out of sharing
their personal information.
to Milgram, ERCA enticed teachers and counselors
in New Jersey and across the country to
have their students complete surveys by
offering them $40 and $50 gift cards from
companies including Staples, VISA, and Office
Max. ERCA’s Web site reports that
ERCA distributes millions of surveys to
U.S. secondary school teachers every year.
Under the multi-state settlement agreement,
ERCA must no longer offer anything of monetary
value to educators relating to the collection
and marketing of personal information from
relationship of trust that develops between
students and their teachers should not be
exploited for commercial purposes,”
said Milgram. “This settlement agreement
is designed to ensure that does not happen.
in Morristown, ERCA asks high school and
junior high students to provide survey responses
on questions pertaining to their ethnic
backgrounds, honors won, participation in
sports and extracurricular activities, the
religious affiliation of a college they
would choose, if any, and other information.
Student information obtained by ERCA has
been marketed and provided to colleges and
other educational institutions, but also
to commercial businesses that sell products
and services to students. Such commercial
use of student survey information was disclosed
by ERCA, but the company did not tell students
and the parents of students under 18 how
to opt out of such marketing.
In addition to no longer providing gift
card incentives to educators, ERCA must
now clearly disclose how students, or the
parents of students under age 18, can opt
out of completing the surveys, according
to the settlement agreement.
ERCA is a not-for-profit corporation. Under
terms of the settlement agreement with New
Jersey and the other states, ERCA does not
admit to any violation of New Jersey consumer
protection law, or to having violated any
similar statute in another state.
As part of the “Assurance of Discontinuance
/Assurance of Voluntary Compliance”
agreement, ERCA must pay $200,000 to the
participating states for investigative costs,
attorney fees, and consumer education and