After allegations that consumers were enrolled in and charged for memberships and discount clubs without their consent, Affinion entered a settlement agreement for $30 million with 47 states and the District of Columbia.
Affinion and its subsidiaries partner with banks and retailers to offer discount clubs and membership programs for credit monitoring, roadside assistance, travel services and more. Many of these programs begin as a free trial and continue with a monthly recurring charge once the trial has ended.
The two most troubling marketing practices without clear disclosure and authorization, according to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, were the live check and online data pass. When consumers endorsed and deposited a live check, they were automatically enrolled in the program and recurrently charged. The online data pass occurred after an online transaction. The consumer was offered a free trial, and if they clicked to accept, account information was passed directly from the retailer to Affinion for enrollment and recurrent billing.
As part of the settlement, Affinion is required to clearly communicate information regarding membership, periodic reminders about enrollment and any changes to its cancellation policies.
For more information about the settlement, refund eligibility, and the complete list of more than 200 Affinion membership programs, visit the online announcement from the Attorney General at www.atg.wa.gov/ pressrelease.aspx?id=31434.
To receive a refund for an improper charge from an Affinion membership program, you will need to file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by using the online form at https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/ formhandler/ago/ComplaintForm.aspx or by calling (800) 551-4636. The deadline to file your complaint is Feb. 14.
To spot fraudulent charges, the Better Business Bureau recommends saving your receipts to compare them to your account transactions. Be sure to check your online accounts often and review your bank statements and credit card bills promptly after receipt.
If you find an unauthorized charge on your credit or debit card, contact the company that submitted the charge to gather as much information as possible. In some cases, companies may issue charges under a different name, so you may find the transaction is one you authorized after all. If you have any trouble contacting or getting answers from the company that issued the charge, report questionable charges to your card issuer as soon as you find them on your bill or statement.
For more tips you can trust, visit the BBB at www.bbb.org or call (509) 455-4200.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor