$30M judgment announced against membership plan marketers - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

$30M judgment made against membership plan marketers

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ATLANTA (WTOC) -

Affinion and its subsidiaries, Trilegiant and Webloyalty, will pay more than $30 million to settle allegations of misleading consumers into signing up for discount clubs and memberships, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens announced Friday. 

The allegations were brought by Georgia, 46 other states and the District of Columbia. Affinion is settling allegations that it operated several membership-only services that promised discounted travel, roadside assistance and credit monitoring. 

Investigators said the company relied on unlawful practices to recruit and deceive their customers. 

Under the agreement, the company must pay restitution and provide full disclosure about membership terms to customers who voluntarily enroll in its 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 received unauthorized charges for its programs. An estimated $526,550 of the restitution has been designated for eligible Georgia consumers, according to the Georgia Attorney General's Office. Affinion will also make a $25,000 payment directly to the state of Georgia. 

The company was accused of using checks in mail marketing campaigns and online data pass offers. 

Customers who received and deposited the check did not initially know that by doing so would automatically enroll them in one of defendants' services, according to the Georgia Attorney General's Office. 

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 usually on bills under the names of its membership programs. The Georgia Attorney General's Office recommends consumers check their credit card and bank account statements to look for those membership program names. View a list of the names here

Georgia residents seeking refunds from Affinion and its subsidiaries regarding unauthorized charges can file complaints with the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection by calling 404.651.8600 or 800.869.1123 or submit an online complaint

Settlement terms require restitution checks will be issued to consumers by Affinion or the claims administrator by May 2014. 

Terms of eligibility, according to the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection: 

Current Affinion Members - Consumers who enrolled in an Affinion program by depositing a check on online data pass between Jan. 15, 2008 and Oct. 17, 2013; or consumers who enrolled in a Webloyalty program between Sept. 30, 2008, and Oct. 17, 2013, by check and online data pass. 

These consumers will receive notice of the settlement and a claim form from the third-party claims administrator by mail (if check was deposited) or by email (if online data pass was used). A complaint does not have to file, but the claim will still be processed if they do. Notices and claim forms will be mailed within 60 days of Oct. 17, and the consumers must submit their claims to the claims administrator within 90 days of receiving it. 

Former Affinion Members - Former Affinion or Webloyalty members who enrolled via live check and online data pass who file complaints with GOCP prior to or within 120 days of Oct.17, 2013, are eligible for a refund. These are consumers who previously canceled their Affinion memberships and now desire a refund for any unauthorized charges. 

Consumers Who Filed Complaints with Affinion – Consumers who had previously submitted a complaint directly to Affinion, before Oct. 17, 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. 

Anyone with questions about claim processing and restitution checks can call the Third Party Claims Administrator at 866.297.3088. 

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