Has this happened to you? You buy something on line and see an offer for cash back on your purchase. You click on the box for the cash back offer and later your credit card is charged a “fee” for joining an Internet discount club.
This type of practice has been done repeatedly for many Internet buyers. Now the New York Attorney General has warned Internet retailers to stop funneling unsuspecting customers into deceptive Web discount clubs. With thousands of complaints to this practice, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has sent investigative subpoenas to 22 prominent merchants that include Barnes & Noble, Priceline and Pizza Hut. These merchants have been affiliated with marketing companies such as Affinion, Vertrue and Webloyalty who have piggybacked their Web sites.
The companies getting subpoenas included Barnes & Noble, Orbitz, Buy.com, Ticketmaster, MovieTickets.com, FTC.com, Shutterfly, 1-800-Flowers.com, Avon, Budget, Staples, Priceline, GMAC Mortgage, Classmates.com, Travelocity, Vistaprint, Intelius, Hotwire, Expedia, Hotels.com, Columbia House, Pizza Hut and Gamestop/EB Games.
Some of these companies said they have already taken action. Vistaprint, Priceline, Expedia and 1-800-Flowers.com said they severed ties with the companies last fall. Affinion, Vertrue and Webloyalty are all based in Norwalk, Connecticut. These marketing companies have been accused of improper conduct many times before.
Next time, carefully read the “fine print” on the discount coupons to make sure that you are not enrolling into an Internet discount club that is charging a fee.