Dozens of Iowans paid monthly charges totaling hundreds of dollars without ever downloading music; one Iowan paid more than $1,600
(DES MOINES, Iowa) Subscription-based online music seller eMusic.com Inc. has agreed to provide $40,000 in refunds to Iowa consumers, many of whom were likely unaware of their memberships and paid monthly fees totaling hundreds of dollars over months or years.
In an agreement reached today with Attorney General Tom Miller, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, New York-based eMusic also agreed to make its enrollment procedures more transparent. The company will take affirmative steps to avoid charging Iowans who may have enrolled inadvertently in an eMusic program.
Records the company provided to the Consumer Protection Division through the agreement show that some Iowa consumers have been enrolled since as long as 2002, and have paid eMusic monthly fees without ever downloading music. eMusic currently charges $12-$32 in monthly membership fees. Many consumers paid from $500-$900 dollars over several years in fees for unused memberships, and one consumer enrolled since 2002 paid more than $1,600 in fees without ever downloading music.
Consumers complained after discovering they had unknowingly been enrolled in memberships and were charged monthly fees. However, Miller noted that other long-time Iowa members expressed satisfaction with the services provided.
“This illustrates, yet again, the importance of paying close attention to online transactions that may include an enrollment feature that leads to monthly charges,” Miller said. “Consumers who closely examine their credit card and bank statements for unauthorized or unwanted charges can save themselves headaches and money.”
Under the agreement, eMusic will send notices to Iowa consumers who are paying monthly fees but have not used the service in a recent two month period, and the company will seek to confirm whether the consumers agree to continue their memberships. The company will cease billing customers who indicate they wish to discontinue their memberships and will cease charging consumers who do not respond.
The company also agrees to send annual membership notices to consumers who have made six monthly payments without downloading music. The notices will include information on how to cancel.
The company will pay the State of Iowa $3,000 for consumer fraud enforcement, but denies wrongdoing or liability.
“Free Trial Offer” & Membership 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? What is your deadline to cancel? How do you cancel? Will you receive a notice through mail or email? Remember, a company may already 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 Attorney General’s 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.
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