Georgia, 46 States Obtain $30 Million Judgment Against Membership Program Marketers
ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Sam Olens and John Sours, Administrator of the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection (“GOCP”), along with the Attorneys General of 46 other states and the District of Columbia announced today that Connecticut-based Affinion, and its subsidiaries Trilegiant and Webloyalty, will pay over $30 million to settle allegations that they misled consumers into signing up and paying for discount clubs and memberships.
The defendants operated multiple membership-only services to customers, including programs that promised discounted travel, roadside assistance and credit monitoring. According to investigators, the defendants relied on unlawful practices to recruit and deceive their customers. Under today’s agreement, the defendants must pay restitution and provide full and clear disclosure about the terms of the memberships to those customers who do voluntarily enroll in the defendants’ programs.
Consumers alleged that Affinion charged them for services without their authorization or knowledge, and once consumers learned they were being charged, some had trouble canceling or getting a refund. Many consumers were confused about who Affinion was because the offers looked like they came from Affinion’s marketing partners, usually banks or retailers the consumers did business with.
Affinion is establishing a $19 million restitution fund to provide refunds to consumers who received unauthorized charges for its programs. Of these funds, approximately $526,550 has been designated as direct restitution for eligible Georgia consumers. In addition, Affinion will make a $25,000 payment directly to the State of Georgia.
Two troubling practices that prompted the states’ enforcement action were the defendants’ routine use of live check solicitations and online data pass offers. Customers who received a live check in a direct mail solicitation and deposited the check into their banks initially did not realize that – by merely cashing the check – they had been automatically enrolled in one of the defendants’ services. Online data pass offers occurred when customers received defendants’ offers immediately after making an online purchase from a retailer. Affinion could then enroll and start billing these customers using personal account information which the retailer had provided to them.
Affinion’s charges generally appear on consumers’ bills under the names of its membership programs. Therefore, consumers are advised to check their credit card and bank account statements to look for those membership program names, a complete list of which can be found here.
Georgians seeking refunds from Affinion and its subsidiaries regarding unauthorized charges may file complaints with the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 (toll-free in Georgia, outside of the metro Atlanta calling area) or by submitting an online complaint form.
Terms of Eligibility:
1. Current Affinion Members - Consumers who enrolled in an Affinion program via live check or on-line data pass between January 15, 2008 and October 17, 2013; or consumers who enrolled in a Webloyalty program between September 30, 2008 and October 17, 2013 via live check and on-line data pass. Under the terms of the settlement these consumers will receive notice of the settlement and a claim form from the third party Claims Administrator via mail (if the consumer enrolled via live-check) or by email (if the consumer enrolled via on-line data pass). These consumers do not need to file a complaint with our office, but if they file a complaint their claim will still be processed. The Notices and Claim forms will be sent out within 60 days of October 17, 2013 and the consumers must submit their claims to the Claims Administrator within 90 days of receiving it.
2. Former Affinion Members - Former Affinion or Webloyalty members that enrolled via live check and on-line data pass, who file complaints with our office prior to or within 120 days of October 17, 2013 are eligible for a refund. These are consumers who previously cancelled their Affinion memberships and now desire a refund for any unauthorized charges.
3. Consumers Who Filed Complaints with Affinion – Consumers who previously submitted a complaint directly to Affinion, prior to October 17, 2013, and canceled their membership but did not receive a full refund, are eligible for a full refund. These consumers must contact Affinion to request their refund.
Any questions about claim processing and restitution checks should be directed to the Third Party Claims Administrator, GCG, at 1-866-297-3088.
Under the terms of the settlement, restitution checks will be issued to consumers by Affinion or the Claims Administrator by no later than May 2014.