Consumers tricked into joining discount clubs to get $30 million back
Release date: 10/10/2013
Affinion used misleading marketing and billing, AG contends
Raleigh: A company that tricked consumers into signing up and paying for discount clubs and other memberships they didn’t really want will pay $30 million in consumer refunds and penalties, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Thursday.
“Businesses need to be upfront about what they’re selling and what it will cost you,” Cooper said. “If you didn’t agree to pay for something, you shouldn’t get charged for it.”
Cooper joined 46 other states and the District of Columbia in winning a judgment against Connecticut-based Affinion and its subsidiaries Trilegiant and Webloyalty, which run multiple discount clubs and membership programs offering services such as credit monitoring, roadside assistance, and discounted travel.
Affinion markets its programs through well-known banks and retailers, which often pitch Affinion’s clubs and memberships to consumers immediately after they’ve done business with the bank or retailer. Affinion then charges a monthly fee of $8 to $15.99 for the service until or unless a consumer cancels.
According to consumers who complained to Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division, Affinion charged them without their authorization or knowledge. Some consumers had no idea what the charges were when they appeared on their credit card or bank statements. Once consumers identified the charges, some had trouble canceling or getting a refund.
Under today’s agreement, Affinion will pay $30 million in consumer refunds and penalties. Consumers who believe they were improperly charged by Affinion may be eligible for a refund under the settlement.
North Carolina consumers who identify charges related to Affinion should file a consumer complaint online at ncdoj.gov or call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. Consumers can check their credit card and bank account statements to see if they have charges from Affinion, Trilegiant, or Webloyalty or any of their membership programs.
Going forward, Affinion is required to provide clear and conspicuous information to consumers about its memberships, give them periodic reminders of their enrollment, and make it easier to cancel.
Today’s judgment specifically prohibits two troubling practices:
Affinion sent consumers what appeared to be checks in the mail. When consumers endorsed and deposited the checks, they unknowingly authorized Affinion to enroll them in membership programs and bill them each month.
Consumers who shopped online were presented an offer from Affinion immediately after making a purchase. Affinion then enrolled and billed them for services using account and contact information shared by the retailer.
“Some companies will sneak charges onto your bill, hoping you won’t notice,” Cooper said. “Check your bank account and credit card statements carefully, and take action quickly if you notice charges you don’t recognize.”
Media contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413