Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster today announced a multistate action against a marketing business for claims that it deceived consumers into enrolling in discount clubs and memberships that they did not want or in which they did not know they were participating. Under a court settlement, Affinion Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries Trilegiant Corporation and Webloyalty.com, Inc. will pay more than $30 million in penalties and refunds to consumers in Missouri and other states.
According to Koster, Affinion and its subsidiaries work through “marketing partners” to sell enrollments in discount clubs and membership programs offering services such as credit monitoring, roadside assistance, and discounted travel. These “marketing partners” include well-known banks and retailers, and consumers are often duped into believing that their bank or the retailer is offering them a special deal.
In many cases, consumers receive checks that look like official checks written for a small sum. Once a consumer deposits the check, he or she is signed up for a program or membership. Affinion also uses deceptive online advertisements and telemarketing to enroll consumers in its services, often following a consumer’s transaction with a bank or retailer.
After the consumer is enrolled, Affinion charges consumers a monthly fee of $8.00 to $15.99, or an annual fee of $49.99 to $139.00. The program or membership continues until the consumers cancel, but in many cases consumers were unable to cancel or obtain a refund because the company refused or the consumers could not locate contact information for the specific membership program in which they were enrolled.
Koster said some consumers may not even know they were enrolled in the programs because the “marketing partner” had passed their financial information to Affinion for billing without their knowledge.
“Affinion uses deceptive practices to enroll consumers in their programs and then charges outrageous prices for minimal services that consumers did not want in the first place,” Koster said. “Consumers deserve clear information about their purchases, and schemes to register consumers without their knowledge or permission will not be tolerated.”
Today’s agreement requires Affinion to change its business practices. Affinion now must provide clear information to consumers about their memberships and what the consumer is purchasing, send reminders to consumers about their enrollment, and explain the cancellation process.
Koster said the settlement provides at least $19 million for refunds to consumers. Consumers should check the list of “marketing partners” and product names that Affinion used. If consumers find any of these “marketing partners” or product names listed on their current or past credit card statements or bank statements, they should call the Attorney General’s Office at 800-392-8222 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to begin the claim process. Consumers who have already filed complaints with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office should receive a claim form in the mail.
Claim forms must be submitted to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office by December 31, 2013.