FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 6, 2014
Buying Club Company Agrees to Refund Iowa Consumers for Monthly “Membership” Charges
Hundreds of MyBuyClub and MyTripSavers consumers likely unaware of enrollments
(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Reno, Nevada online buying club will pay the state nearly $14,000 for refunds to Iowa consumers charged for membership programs they likely weren’t aware of, under an agreement with Attorney General Tom Miller.
The agreement, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, requires Aragon Interactive, also known as A.I. Interactive Inc., to pay for refunds to Iowans charged for “MyBuyClub” and “MyTripSavers” memberships. MyBuyClub claims to save its members money on retail purchases, while MyTripSavers claims to save its members on travel costs. As part of the agreement, the company denied any wrongdoing or liability.
Investigation: Hundreds of Iowans Charged, Likely Only a Fraction Used Memberships
A Consumer Protection Division investigation found that Aragon repeatedly charged hundreds of Iowans for memberships, and some consumers’ credit card charges totaled several hundred dollars. Miller said that only a fraction of Aragon’s paying members are believed to have used the memberships, which indicates that they had probably been unknowingly enrolled.
Consumer Discovered Charges, Company Refused Full Refund
The state’s investigation began last year after a consumer near Waterloo contacted Aragon about credit card charges from both buying clubs that he said he neither recognized, nor authorized. The company, the consumer reported, refused to issue a full refund because he didn’t cancel his membership within a fourteen-day trial period. The consumer then filed a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division.
“Aragon claimed that the Iowan had signed up for a trial membership when he ordered an unrelated product, but the consumer disputed that he ever agreed to it,” Miller said. “In his complaint, the consumer wrote, ‘I do not think that not saying no means yes.’ He’s right.”
The company later refunded the money after the Consumer Protection Division inquired.
Iowa Law Requires Disclosures
Iowa law requires specific disclosures and cancellation rights when consumers are enrolled in buying club memberships. Those disclosures were not made here, according to Miller.
“When companies follow our state’s consumer protection laws, anyone enrolled in a buying club has clear notice and is unlikely to be the victim of unwanted charges,” Miller said.
State to Issue Refunds to Eligible Consumers
The Consumer Protection Division has obtained Aragon’s membership list for Iowa and will issue refunds to the state’s eligible consumers. Consumers do not need to contact the Consumer Protection Division to make a claim.
In addition to the consumer refund payment, Aragon must comply with Iowa’s Buying Club Memberships Law for future enrollments.
“Sadly, we see this all the time,” Miller said. “A consumer is on the phone or online for a completely unrelated reason – like ordering a product they saw on an infomercial – and unexpectedly gets offered cash back on the purchase, or a gift card, as part of a pitch for a trial membership. Then charges start showing up on the consumer’s credit card statements, and don’t stop until the consumer cancels. Giving credit card statements a close read is the best way to catch it.”
“Free Trial Offer” & Buying Club Tips
- Be wary of trial offers, “free trial” offers, and membership offers. Get the details and ask questions. Will you be billed automatically if you don’t cancel? By when must you cancel? How do you cancel? Will you receive a mail notice? Remember, they already may have your bank or credit card number to charge you.
- Examine your credit card bills every month, your checking account and debit card statements, other financial accounts, and phone bills. Watch for unauthorized charges, and dispute them at once, in writing.
- Watch your mail and email for notices that you will be billed unless you cancel. These mailings may look like junk mail or spam.
- Beware of cashing a check that comes in the mail with a “free trial offer.” The fine print may obligate you to future payments.
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 1-888-777-4590.