Affinion Settles Allegations of Deceptive Advertising and Enrollment in Discount Clubs and Memberships
Attorney General Jim Hood and the Attorneys General of 46 other states and the District of Columbia have announced thatConnecticut-based Affinion, andits 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 membership.
Affinion is establishing a fund of approximately $19 million to provide refunds to some consumers who received unauthorized charges for Affinion’s programs. Mississippi consumers who believe they were improperly charged by Affinion, Trilegiant, or Webloyalty can file consumer complaints with the Consumer Protection Division of the MississippiAttorney General’s Office. Complaint forms may be obtained at www.agjimhood.com or by contacting the Consumer Protection Division at 601-359-4230 or 1-800-281-4418. The deadline to submit complaints to the Attorney General’s Office is February 14, 2014.
Affinion and its subsidiaries run multiple discount clubs and membership programs offering a variety of services such as credit monitoring, roadside assistance, and discounted travel. Affinion markets these programs through a series of agreements with “marketing partners” – well-known banks and retailers that present these programs to consumers often immediately after the consumer has engaged in a transaction with that partner. Affinion’s programs are marketed via direct mail, online, telemarketing, andin face-to-face point of sale transactions. Affinion charges a monthly fee to consumers for these services, which continues until the consumers affirmatively cancel.
Consumers complaining to the States have allegedthat Affinion charged them for services without consumers’ authorization or knowledge, and, once consumers learned they were being charged, some further had trouble canceling or getting a refund. Other consumers were confused about who Affinion even 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, including a lack of clear and conspicuous disclosure about Affinion’s identity, and the cost and ongoing nature of the charges. Most troubling were two marketing practices of Affinion – live checks and onlinedatapass. In a live check solicitation, consumers were sent via direct mail an offer that appeared to be a check – but when consumers 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 onlinedatapass offer, consumers 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 wouldpassthat information to Affinion. As part of today’s settlement, both practices are prohibited.
The agreement includesfurther changes to Affinion’s business model by requiring Affinion to provide clear and conspicuous information to consumers after enrollment regarding their membership, periodic reminders of their enrollment, and changes to Affinion’s cancellation practices.
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. A complete list of Affinion’s membership programs may be obtained at www.agjimhood.com.
Affinionsettlement Click here to see Attorney General Jim Hood’s Press Release
Affinion List_Alpha Order Click here to read the list of Affinion products
Affinion ComplaintForm Click here to download a complaint form against Affinion