US Senate to investigate web loyalty programmes, monthly fees
Thousands of US consumers have complained about “mysterious” $9-12 charges that appear monthly on their credit card bills, and the Senate Commerce Committee is now investigating.
The source of the charges is “online loyalty programmes” that appear on sites including Orbitz, and operators can expect some tough questions from Senator Jay Rockefeller
According to US media, if you buy items on the web, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a popup screen after making a purchase that offers you a cash back reward on future purchases. Many have been lured by this, clicking the “yes” button and entering an e-mail address.
But the action leads not to a mysterious gift in the post, but to charges of $9-12 show up on credit cards every month after clicking on such links. That’s because they have actually enrolled in a web loyalty programme, in many cases without knowing it.
Companies like Webloyalty have affiliations with merchants – big names like Orbitz, Petco, Fandango, Priceline, and FTD. When customers sign up for their “cash back” offer, Webloyalty gets the billing information from the merchant.
Jay Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, has companies including Webloyalty and Vertrue explain themselves to his committee.
In a sternly-worded letter to Webloyalty’s chief exec, Rockefeller said that the company has “engaged in business and marketing practices on the internet that generate a high volume of consumer complaints… Consumers regularly complain that your company charges their credit card or debit card on a monthly basis for services they are not aware they have purchased.”
The committee has asked for a huge cache of documents by June 17, including everything “related to internal discussions regarding internet consumers accidentally or unknowingly signing up for an online membership service or discount club… including Webloyalty’s efforts to minimize this problem.”