About $19 million in refunds nationwide, including Arizona, is up for grabs from a company that allegedly misled consumers into signing up and paying for discount clubs and membership.
Connecticut-based Affinion, and its subsidiaries Trilegiant and Webloyalty, will pay more than $30 million to settle the allegations. Arizona is among the 46 states and the District of Columbia included in the settlement.
Affinion and its subsidiaries run multiple discount clubs and membership programs that offered a variety of services such as credit monitoring, roadside assistance, and discounted travel.
The company marketed the programs through a series of agreements with "marketing partners" comprised of well-known banks and retailers that presented the programs to consumers immediately after the consumer had engaged in a transaction with that partner.
Affinion's programs were marketed via direct mail, online, telemarketing, and in face-to-face point of sale transactions. They charged a monthly fee to consumers, which continued until they were canceled.
Consumers complaining to the States have alleged that Affinion charged them for services without authorization or knowledge, and, once consumers learned they were being charged, some had trouble canceling or getting a refund.
Other consumers were confused about who Affinion was because the offers looked like they came from Affinion's marketing partners, which usually were banks or retailers with which the consumers did business.
The States' investigation uncovered several of Affinion's marketing practices that misled consumers:
Two marketing practices were especially troubling, according to the Arizona attorney general's office - live checks and online data pass.
In a live check solicitation, people were sent(via direct mail an offer that appeared to be a check, but when they endorsed and deposited the checks, the consumers unknowingly authorized Affinion to enroll them in membership programs, and to bill them each month indefinitely.
In an online data pass offer, people were presented an Affinion offer immediately after an online purchase from a retailer. Affinion was then able to enroll and bill consumers without acquiring any of their account information because the marketing partner would pass that information to Affinion. As part of Thursday's judgment, both practices are prohibited.
The settlement states Affinion must provide clear information to consumers after enrollment about their membership, periodic reminders of their enrollment and notice of changes to cancellation practices.
Affinion is establishing a fund of around $19 million to provide refunds to eligible consumers who received unauthorized charges for their programs.
Consumers who believe they were improperly charged by Affinion, Trilegiant, or Webloyalty can file a consumer complaint with the Arizona Attorney General at http://www.azag.gov or may request a mailed complaint form by calling 602-542-5763 (Phoenix), 520-628-6504 (Tucson) or 800-352-8431 (tToll-free outside of metro Phoenix).
To be considered for a refund under this settlement, consumers must file their complaints before February 14, 2014. Consumers checking their credit card and bank account statements should also be looking for the names of Affinion's membership programs, as often that is how the company's charges appear on their bills.
The States included in the settlement are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The District of Columbia also joined.
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