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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 10, 2013
Ferguson announces $30M judgment against company that runs discount club programs

Affinion settles deceptive advertising and membership enrollment allegations  

SETTLEMENT DOCUMENTS 
Complete list of Affinion’s membership programs (pdf)
Information about the settlement terms and refund eligibility (pdf)

SEATTLE --Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined attorneys general from 46 states and the District of Columbia in announcing today a multimillion-dollar settlement with Connecticut-based Affinion, and its subsidiaries Trilegiant and Webloyalty. The companies will pay more than $30 million to settle allegations that consumers were enrolled in and charged for discount clubs and memberships without their consent. 

Washington state consumers who file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office will share an estimated $435,000 in restitution. Washington will receive additional funds to recover incurred costs and fees.

"If businesses don’t play by the rules, my office will hold them accountable," said Ferguson. "Deceptive marketing and business practices will not be tolerated." 

What Affinion does:

Affinion is an affinity marketing company. Affinity marketing is a method of selling goods and services by creating partnerships with other companies and brands. The intent is to increase market awareness and profits for both.

Affinion and its subsidiaries offer multiple discount clubs and membership programs for services such as credit monitoring, roadside assistance and discount travel.

Affinion offers these programs through agreements with marketing partners including well-known banks and retailers. The marketing partners present programs to consumers often immediately after the consumer has engaged in a transaction.

Programs are marketed via direct mail, online, telemarketing and during face-to-face point of sale transactions.

If the consumer does not cancel his/her membership prior to the end of the month-long trial period, Affinion automatically renews the membership and charges.   

How the alleged scheme worked:

The attorneys general investigation discovered several of Affinion’s practices misled consumers.

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. Other 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.

Most troubling were two marketing practices of Affinion: Live Check and online Data Pass.

In a Live Check solicitation, consumers were sent an offer via direct mail that appeared to be a check. When consumers endorsed and deposited the checks, they unknowingly authorized Affinion to enroll them in membership programs, and to bill them each month indefinitely.

In an online Data Pass offer, consumers were presented with an Affinion offer immediately following their 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 passed/forwarded that information to Affinion. As part of today’s judgment, both practices are prohibited.

Affinion is establishing a $19 million fund to provide refunds to consumers who received unauthorized charges for Affinion’s programs.

How consumers can obtain a refund:

Affinion is establishing a $19 million fund to provide refunds to consumers who received unauthorized charges for Affinion’s programs.

Consumers should check their credit card and bank account statements and look for the names of Affinion’s membership programs. Charges often appear under the names of these programs. A complete list of Affinion’s membership programs is listed here.  More information about the settlement terms and refund eligibility can be found, here.

Consumers who believe they were improperly charged by Affinion, Trilegiant or Webloyalty can file a consumer complaint with the Washington State Attorney General online at https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/ComplaintForm.aspx, or by calling 1-800-551-4636 and requesting a paper complaint form. The deadline for filing a complaint to receive a refund is February 14, 2014.

Today’s agreement includes changes to Affinion’s business model by requiring Affinion to provide clear information to consumers after enrollment regarding their membership, periodic reminders of their enrollment and changes to Affinion’s cancellation practices.

The states included in the settlement are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, 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, Wyoming and the District of Columbia.

The states that led the investigation were California, Texas, Tennessee, Iowa, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, Maine and Illinois. 

 
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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

CONTACTS:
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725, janelleg@atg.wa.gov
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Deputy Comm. Director, (206) 442-4482, alisond@atg.wa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

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