Consumers were deceptively enrolled in auto club, lawsuit alleges
DES MOINES — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has sued the seller of the “Miracle Scraper” — which removes ice and snow from car windshields — for enrolling customers in a buying club without their knowledge or consent and charging them $9.95 a month.
Robert Schermerhorn of Dunedin, Fla., sells the funnel-shaped plastic scraper on the internet for as little as $19.97 each. Consumers who purchase the item receive an email confirming the order of the scraper. According to the AG’s lawsuit, however, hidden beneath the signature of the email is the following:
Before You go, check out this special offer!
As a valued member of the Miracle Scraper family, we’re excited to announce our partnership with award winning VIP Auto Discount Club to help keep everyone in our family safe on the roads all year round!
And to kick things off this winter, we’ve PAID for your first months membership for you! No typo’s there!
You get to try VIP Auto Discount 100% free for the next 30 days, on us!
After that you will be automatically enrolled for just just $9.95 a month for unlimited access to the many incredible benefits of being a VIP member such as:
- $100 Gas gift voucher
- Your 24 HR Roadside Assistant +1 (877) 681-6464
- 2 Oil & Filter Changes per year (up to $34.95 each!)
- Industry leading discounts on towing services
- Up to 20% off various maintenance services
- FREE tire rotations across US and Canada
- Amazing Rental Car Discounts
- Lockout Services
- And much, much more!
For a full list of member benefits simply head to the website linked here. Or if you wish to cancel your free membership simply call the VIP Auto Discount Customer hotline at +1 (877) 681-6464.
At least 280 Iowans were signed up for the membership club and charged the monthly fee, according to information that Schermerhorn provided through a subpoena. A Consumer Protection Division investigator interviewed some of those Iowa consumers, and no one said they knew they were being enrolled into the “VIP Auto Discount Club” or even used its alleged benefits.
Attorney General Miller alleges that Schermerhorn violated the Iowa Buyer Club Memberships Law with his “negative-option, nonconsensual onloading of Iowa consumers into a monthly fee,” and that he engaged in deceptive and unfair practices violating the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act.
The AG’s lawsuit seeks an injunction preventing Schermerhorn from selling the scraper and the memberships to Iowa consumers. It also asks a judge to declare the memberships and fees void, require Schermerhorn to refund consumers’ money, and fine him up to $40,000 for each separate violation of the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act.
Tips for consumers on buyer clubs
- Check out the company first. The Better Business Bureau’s page for the “Miracle Scraper Team” gives it an “F” rating and shows about 800 consumer complaints, including allegations of unfair and deceptive billing conduct across the United States.
- Be on alert if you hear you are being offered a free trial period. The company likely already your credit or debit card number and will start billing you after the free period.
- Many scams begin with “negative option” billing, which occurs when a consumer is automatically enrolled into a program and must “opt out” rather than “opt in” before being charged a recurring fee. When ordering merchandise online, be sure to review all pre-checked boxes and the fine print of the terms and conditions before submitting your order.
- Always check your credit card bill or checking account. Be sure every charge is something you authorize and approve and immediately dispute the charge if it isn't something to which you consented or that you ordered.
- If you feel you were deceptively or unfairly enrolled into a program with a recurring monthly fee, contact the Iowa Attorney General’s Office:
Phone: 515-281-5926 (outside the Des Moines area, call toll-free: 888-777-4590)