Connecticut Joins Multistate Settlement with Affinion
Connecticut Joins Multistate Settlement with Affinion
Resolving Allegations of Deceptive Practices
Companies will pay more than $30 million,
including nearly $19 million in consumer refunds
For immediate release THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2013
HARTFORD – Attorney General George Jepsen and state Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein announced today that the state has joined with 46 other states and the District of Columbia in a settlement with Stamford-based Affinion Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries, Trilegiant Corporation and Webloyalty.com, Inc., to settle allegations that the companies misled consumers into signing up and paying for discount clubs and memberships.
The agreement requires the companies to provide clear and conspicuous information to consumers about their membership, periodic reminders of their enrollment and information about their cancellation practices.
The companies will establish a fund of approximately $19 million to provide refunds to some consumers who received unauthorized charges for their programs. Additionally, a $25,000 separate payment will be made to the state of Connecticut.
“This settlement is a resolution that provides for consumer refunds as well as significant injunctive relief against the alleged deceptive practices,” Attorney General Jepsen said. “Consumers with questions or consumers who are unsure about whether they qualify for a refund under this settlement should contact my office and file a complaint as soon as possible to protect any potential eligibility.”
“This is a win for the consumers who were deceived by the misleading marketing practices of these companies, including a lack of clear and conspicuous disclosure about what the charges were, the reason for the charges and the recurring nature of charges,” Commissioner Rubenstein said. “Unfair practices such as these are unacceptable.”
Affinion and its subsidiaries run multiple discount clubs and membership programs offering a variety of services, including credit monitoring, roadside assistance and discounted travel. A complete list of the companies’ membership programs is available here. The companies market these programs through a series of agreements with “marketing partners,” – well-known banks and retailers through which the companies present their programs to consumers, often immediately after a consumer has engaged in a transaction with that partner.
The companies charge a monthly fee for their programs, which continue until consumers affirmatively cancel. Consumer complaints alleged that they were charged by the companies without authorization or knowledge, and some consumers had difficulty canceling or getting a refund when they learned they were being charged.
The states’ investigation uncovered several misleading marketing practices, including lack of clear and conspicuous disclosure that the charges were from the companies, the reason for the charges and the reoccurring nature of charges. Two specific marketing practices – live checks and online data pass – are expressly prohibited per the settlement terms.
In a live check solicitation, consumers were allegedly sent an offer through direct mail that appeared to be a check; when consumers endorsed and deposited the checks, the consumers unknowingly authorized enrollment in one of the companies’ programs. In an online data pass offer, consumers allegedly were presented an offer from one of the companies immediately after an online purchase from a retailer, allowing the company to enroll and bill consumers when its marketing partner provided account information
Consumers may be eligible for refunds through the settlement as follows:
1. Consumers will receive a notice and claim form if they were enrolled in an Affinion or Trilegiant program through live check solicitation or through an online data pass offer between January 15, 2008, and the present date, or through a Webloyalty Membership Program via online data pass between September 30, 2008, and the present date. The notice and claim form will be provided online or through direct mail. Claim forms must be returned within 90 days of receipt.
Certain conditions apply: Claim forms for Affinion or Trilegiant refunds will be sent to consumers who have not cancelled their membership and received a full refund of the membership charges prior to the effective date of the settlement, October 17, 2013. Claim forms for Webloyalty will be sent to consumers who, outside of any applicable trial period, did not: file a claim for a protection benefit or download a coupon or make a purchase – including a gift card – from or through a Webloyalty membership program.
2. Consumers who were enrolled via online data pass or live check at any time and who filed or file a complaint with any federal, state or local government agency – including the Attorney General’s Office or the Department of Consumer Protection – prior to or within 120 days after the effective date of the settlement may be covered. As long as those agencies forward such complaints to the companies within 130 days of the effective date of the settlement, consumers are not required to file a separate claim form. Consumers in this category may be subject to the same conditions as listed above in No. 1.
3. Consumers who were enrolled by any means other than online data pass or live check and who filed a complaint with any federal, state or local government agency – including the Attorney General’s office or the Department of Consumer Protection – between January 1, 2011, and July 12, 2012, if such agencies forwarded them to the companies prior to today’s execution of the settlement are not required to submit a claim form. Consumers in this category may be subject to the same conditions as listed above in No. 1.
4. If consumers filed a complaint directly with the companies prior to the settlement, and were enrolled by any of the means and in the time frames described in No. 1, they will be eligible for a full refund. Such consumers do not need to file a claim form, but do need to contact the companies directly within 120 days to request a refund.
Consumers who have filed complaints with federal, state or local agencies can check with them to see if their complaints have been forwarded to the companies. The complete settlement terms and refund eligibility can be found in the settlement document here.
Consumers who believe they were improperly charged by Affinion, Trilgiant or Webloyalty can file complaints with the Office of the Attorney General at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 860-808-5400. Questions about the claims process can be directed to the claims administrator at 1-866-297-3088.
The settlement was filed today in Hartford Superior Court and is not final until it receives the court’s approval.
Assistant Attorneys General Michele Lucan, Sandra Arenas Charles, Jose Rene Martinez and Phillip Rosario, head of the Consumer Protection department, assisted the Attorney General with this matter.
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