Senate Looks Into Deceptive Online Marketing

    May 28, 2009

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.VA.) has launched an investigation into certain ecommerce marketing practices that generate thousands of mysterious monthly charges to consumer credit cards.

The source of these monthly fees comes from a group of marketing companies that obtain consumers’ billing information through agreements with popular online retail sites.

On a number of well-known websites including Fandango and Orbitz, after users make a purchase, a pop up window appears and offers a cash back reward for signing up for a company’s online membership service.

Jay Rockefeller
Jay Rockefeller

If users accept the offer by providing an email address and clicking a "yes" button, their credit card or debit card account information is automatically forwarded to the company and they are automatically enrolled in the service. Unless the user cancels the online membership service, they will be charged indefinitely $9-$12 on a monthly basis.

These deceptive online charges have resulted in thousands of complaints from Internet users who were unaware they were signing up for a monthly service that charged a fee.

Chairman Rockefeller has sent letters of inquiry to two of the ecommerce marketing companies, Vertrue and Webloyalty, to find out more information about the practices.

  "Thousands of American consumers have been complaining about these deceptive practices and asking for answers – and rightly so," Rockefeller said.

"There could be many more affected by these hidden mystery charges – we must do all we can to protect the hard working Americans relying on us to look out for their wallets and well-being."