A report issued by a U.S. Senate committee only uses the word “scam” when quoting different consumers; the report’s title employs the phrase “aggressive sales tactics,” instead. Still, it looks like a number of big online companies have been caught profiting off people’s confusion.
|Senate Uncovers Online Credit Card Tricks|
An investigation ordered by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV discovered that Affinion, Vertrue, and Webloyalty “gain access to online consumers by entering into financial agreements with reputable online websites and retailers,” according to the official report.
Then, “[T]he three companies insert their sales offers into the ‘post-transaction’ phase of an online purchase, after consumers have made a purchase but before they have completed the sale confirmation process. These offers generally promise cash back rewards and appear to be related to the transaction the consumer is in the process of completing. Misleading ‘Yes’ and ‘Continue’ buttons cause consumers to reasonably think they are completing the original transaction, rather than entering into a new, ongoing financial relationship with a membership club operated by Affinion, Vertrue, or Webloyalty.”
So individuals wind up paying $9 a month, and companies make millions. Millions upon millions, really. 1-800-Flowers.com, Buy.com, Priceline, and US Airways (among many others) were all given more than $10 million by Affinion, Vertrue, and Webloyalty. Barnes & Noble, eHarmony, and Pizza Hut received between $1 million and $10 million.
It’s a bit scary to see this sort of trickery employed by such mainstream organizations. Hopefully the committee’s report will force them to clean up their act.