(DES MOINES, Iowa) A New Jersey direct television marketing company has agreed to pay $10,500 for full refunds to Iowans who were charged for memberships in its “Everyday Savings Club” membership program.
Telebrands, Inc. of Fairfield, New Jersey, designs, manufactures and promotes personal care, pet care, and home products it features on television infomercials. Attorney General Tom Miller alleged that, often without their knowledge, Telebrands enrolled customers in the Everyday Savings Club when they purchased those items by phone or online.
Everyday Savings Club purports to save consumers money through shopping, entertainment, travel, recreation, and beauty and wellness programs. Telebrands charges consumers from $14.95 to $19.95 per month for club memberships.
“Too often, purchases from Telebrands led to month after month of membership charges to a consumer’s credit or debit card for a membership the consumer didn’t want, didn’t use, and didn’t even know about,” Miller said.
The agreement, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, requires Telebrands to comply with Iowa’s Buying Club Memberships Law in connection with any future sales of its memberships. In addition to the $10,500 payment for refunds, the agreement also required a $2,000 payment to the state for consumer fraud enforcement. The company denies liability in the agreement.
The settlement will allow for full refunds to be made to all of the 242 Iowans who were charged for memberships and have not already received refunds. The company is providing a customer list, so members do not need to contact the Consumer Protection Division. Refund checks are expected to be mailed out within a few weeks.
Miller identified a number of Telebrands products that were sold through infomercials and resulted in enrollments and membership charges for many consumers who had placed orders. The TV-advertised products included Aluma Wallet, One Second Needle, Royal Heirloom Ring, Pasta Boat, Chef Basket and Robo Stir.
“A consumer ordering an infomercial product was typically offered $10 cash back, but accepting that offer led to enrollment in a membership,” Miller said. “Once enrolled, the consumer’s credit or debit card was charged each month until the consumer cancelled.”
Miller said his office contacted three Iowans who had been paying membership fees to Telebrands for several months after responding to an infomercial. All three were of retirement age, and none realized that they were being charged each month for the Everyday Savings Club membership.
The Iowa Buying Club Memberships Law requires specific written notices to make clear to consumers that they are being enrolled in an ongoing membership – notices that Telebrands had failed to provide, according to Miller.
“It’s pretty alarming how many Iowans have been charged by one operation or another for memberships they don’t know they’re paying for,” said Miller. “It underscores how important it is to monitor charges on your credit and debit cards, and to challenge any that don’t look right.”
“Free Trial Offer” Tips
- Be wary of “free trial offers. Get the details: 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, and also 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 e-mail for notices that you will be billed unless you cancel. These mailings may look like “junk mail.”
- Beware of cashing a check that comes in the mail with a “free trial offer.” The fine print may obligate you to future payments.