(DES MOINES, Iowa) BestBrandValues.com, a Florida-based online membership club retailer, has agreed to pay $135,000 in refunds to Iowans who had been charged for memberships in the company’s programs.
The company, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, sells a variety of products online, including books, videos, music, video games, posters, and vitamins. Affiliated sites include DiscountBookSale.com, HotBookSale.com, HotMovieSale.com, DiscountPosterSale.com and SmartSavingsCenter.com.
Almost 4,000 Iowans paid monthly membership charges ranging from $9.95 to $19.95 a month, according to Attorney General Tom Miller. “We allege that when consumers ordered a book, video, or some other item in response to one of BestBrandValue’s online offers they would end up being enrolled as members,” Miller said. “Monthly membership charges would start appearing on credit card or bank statements. Consumers we contacted did not know they had been enrolled, and they sometimes paid month after month of membership charges for a membership they didn’t want, didn’t use, and didn’t even know about.”
“A consumer completing an online order would be given the chance to save $5, but clicking to get the savings led to membership charges disclosed in small print,” Miller added. “Iowa law requires much more prominent disclosures when it comes to enrollments in buying club memberships.”
Under an agreement, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, BestBrandValues must comply with Iowa’s Buying Club Law in connection with any future sales of its memberships. In addition to the $135,000 payment for refunds, the agreement also requires a $10,000 payment to the State for consumer fraud enforcement. The company denies liability in the agreement.
“Our Consumer Protection Division is seeing more and more instances in which Iowans are being charged by one operation or another for memberships they don’t know they’re paying for,” Miller said. “We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to monitor charges on your credit and debit cards, and challenge any that don’t look right.”
Miller said that consumers who think they may be due a refund don’t need to do anything at this point. A customer list obtained from the company will permit the Consumer Protection Division to contact affected Iowans about the refund process.
“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 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.