$20,000 in refunds to go to more than 200 Iowans enrolled in SavingsGalore.com buying club
(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Tennessee-based online merchandise retailer has agreed to pay nearly $20,000 in refunds to Iowans who were charged for memberships in the company=s online membership club.
Through an agreement called an assurance of voluntary compliance, Wishbone Marketing LLC, of Cordova, Tennessee, which operates the SavingsGalore.com website, will change its marketing practices and cooperate in making refunds to more than 200 Iowans who had been enrolled and charged for a membership.
The company and its owner, Barry Walker, also of Cordova, denied wrongdoing.
“Iowa law requires clear notices and disclosures when a consumer is being signed up for a buying club membership that involves periodic charges to the consumer’s credit or debit card,” Miller said. “This operation enrolled Iowans without meeting those requirements, and now must come into compliance and pay for refunds to affected Iowans.”
Consumers who think they may be due a refund don't need to do anything at this point. Company records are expected to provide the information needed for the Consumer Protection Division to contact affected Iowans about the refund process.
Wishbone Marketing will pay an additional $5,000 to cover the state’s investigation costs.
Ongoing Buying Club Enforcement Efforts
Over the past several years Miller’s office has squared off with many out-of-state buying clubs after receiving complaints from Iowans who discovered unexpected membership charges to their credit or debit cards, which sometimes had gone unnoticed for months or even years.
According to Miller, Iowa has one of the most effective buying club laws in the country, in terms of protecting consumers. “The challenge has been making sure the expanding universe of buying club operations that reach into Iowa comply with Iowa law,” Miller said. “Consumers can help by carefully monitoring their credit card statements and other billing documents for unauthorized charges, and reporting them to the Consumer Protection Division.”
Buying Club Tips
- Be wary of free or low-cost offers for “trial” memberships. 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.
- Online purchases may sign the consumer up for an unintended membership that leads to repeat charges to the consumer’s card. Be on guard when accepting free-shipping or some other extra benefit – the fine print may enroll you in a membership.
- Routinely examine your credit card bills, checking and debit card statements, other financial accounts, and phone bills. Watch for unauthorized charges, and dispute them at once, in writing.
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the 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 888-777-4590.