Rockefeller Goes After Webloyalty And Vertrue

We’ve devoted a fair amount of time to trying to find ways to beat companies like Webloyalty, which market themselves via post-transaction popups on legit Web sites like Fandango and Orbitz, and suck you in with promises of savings, savings, savings, but really just deliver hard-to-cancel recurring monthly charges. The best solution we’ve found: Block pop-ups, boycott merchants that work with these losers, and immediately close any window that starts talking to us about all the great deals we’re about to get. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV has another idea, and it’s one that we like: Investigate the companies and make them hand over the goods on their business practices.

Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent a letter to Webloyalty demanding, among other things:

“All documents and communications related to internal discussions regarding internet customers accidentally or unknowingly signing up for an online membership service or discount club offered by Webloyalty, including, but not limited to, documents and communications related to Webloyalty’s efforts to minimize the problem.”

and

“All communications between Webloyalty and any payment or processing company, bank, credit card company, or debit card company regarding unauthorized charges, including, but not limited to, cardholder complaints or inquiries about unauthorized charges by Webloyalty.”

A similar letter was sent to Vertrue (aka Memberworks).

We’re hoping Rockefeller follows up with subpoenas if the companies stonewall. And we’re really hoping for public hearings (if only so we can actually talk back to the people behind those insanely annoying talking popups). And, ultimately, as Ed Mierzwinski at U.S. PIRG says, “Let’s hope Senator Rockefeller’s investigation leads to more financial privacy reforms, including on the Internet.” Anything less is just talk.

Chairman Rockefeller Launches Investigation Into Deceptive Online “Mystery Charges” [U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation]
Rockefeller moves on click-to-ripoff scams [U.S. PIRG]

RELATED:
How To Shut Webloyalty Down For Good
Webloyalty Reservation Rewards Under Investigation
Watch For Baloney “Reservation Rewards” Charges On Your Credit Card

Comments

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  1. xoforoct wishes he lived in chasm city says:

    But I LIKE paying ridiculous money for stuff I haven’t signed up for!

  2. Cocoa Vanilla says:

    I ordered Pizza Hut and got a message from some “Complete Savings” (the page looks like the one pictured) for $10 off my next order. Sure, I’ll do that. :) They got a virtual card number that they couldn’t charge more than a few dollars to.

    • neost says:

      @Cocoa Vanilla:

      I’ve complained to Pizza Hut several times since they started doing this a few months ago and of course ZERO response to any complaint sent via their website. It is annoying and I refuse to order pizza from them anymore because of it.

      • nucwin83 says:

        @neost: I still order, but gah, I HATE that fricking window. Mainly because of the damned background sound that plays after the window pops up. “You’ve been selected to receive this special offer” is something I don’t care to hear after giving money to Pizza Hut.

  3. RandomHookup says:

    Darn, I thought you were talking about Clark Rockefeller.

  4. OMG! Stevies! says:

    I really hate to say this, and I don’t know what the reaction will be, but people, we need to grow up.

    We can’t expect the Government to put foam on every corner, covers on every plug, latches on every cabinet, put us in pads, and strap a helmet on our heads. Greed is not new. Companies trying to make money using tricky practices/tactics/preying on peoples ignorance didn’t just start. Ever hear the phrase “Never look a gift horse in the mouth”? It’s from people lying/being deceptive about the age of a horse, and not checking it’s teeth to see how old they are. P.T. Barnum used to have huge signs in his Museum that said, “This way to the egress”. He played on people not admitting they didn’t know what Egress meant, and upon entering the door where the egress was, they would be outside.

    Yes, companies that use “trigger” words to be deceptive, such as FREEcreditreport.con , should be dealt with. If this company illegally charges customers w/o them doing anything, then yes, that is illegal, and go after them. If they purposefully ignore/discard peoples request to end their relationship, then go after them.

    BUT, if people just click willy nilly, and don’t read the things they are clicking, then how far can we really go/what can we do to stop it. You can’t make anything fool proof, because fools are so ingenious. I’m smart, but not the smartest. Yet I have on multiple occasions managed to order from multiple companies that do things like this and have avoid charges like this. There are guides out there for how to buy a domain from GoDaddy. I have never looked at them, but have bought over a dozen domains w/o ever being charged for something I didn’t want.

    I think if you really want to cut into this(note I said cut, and not stop, b/c as I said above, you can’t stop everyone from making mistakes), then you should just pass a law which says that if the service was signed up over phone/internet/mail, and the customer has not used the service since “signing-up”, and calls within 2 billing cycles of whatever form of payment was used, and asks to cancel, then you have to cancel them and refund the “un used” money.

    OK, that’s all I have for now.

    /rant

    • mac-phisto says:

      @49USBPorts_GitEmSteveDave: listen, i’m on the bank-side of these transactions & let me tell you something – these companies are the textbook definition of SCAM. they pretend to offer a rewards program for their monthly subscription, but i’ve yet to see a customer actually receive rewards – not even the original “coupon” that usually triggers the sign-up.

      but that’s just the beginning. what’s also scammy?
      -you never actually “sign up” for their service. you click a “yes, i’d like a coupon please pop-up* *[small print: we’re going to pillage every last dollar you have” & their partner (be it orbitz or travelocity or expedia or whathaveyou) transmits YOUR bank information to them. yes, the fine print explains this, but it’s still damn shady.
      -some of these companies have a “what are you interested in?” survey…& then BILL FOR EACH OF THE INTERESTS YOU SIGNED UP FOR!!!1! sorry to shout, but that seems rigoddamndiculous to me. i had a member who was billed 17 TIMES IN ONE MONTH X $12.95 ($220.15). what did he received for those charges? nada.
      -cancel one, cancel all – right? nope. even though this is often ONE company, you’ll be on the phone for a week trying to cancel them all. here’s a list of webloyalty’s billing “programs” (each with a different number to cancel & keep in mind this may not be an exhaustive list):
      *Reservation Rewards
      *Shoppers Discounts & Rewards
      *Members Specials
      *Buyer Assurance
      *Distinctive Privileges
      *PC Protection Plus
      *Travel Values
      *Travel Values Plus
      *Classmates Rewards
      *Wallet Shield

      here’s the short: i don’t care so much IF they bill, but if you are gonna bill someone, you damn well better provide them with something. webloyalty (et al) know they’re scams, that’s why they make it incredibly easy to cancel once they’ve been “caught”. they’re trying to stay just far enough under the radar to avoid being investigated. finally, someone’s stepping up to the plate. anyway, i know what i’ll be come monday morning – writing mr. rockefellar a letter.

    • humphrmi says:

      @OMG! Stevies!: I’m with you on that… (there’s a “but” coming…)

      But, having seen one of these myself, on Fandango, they present them as if they are actually Fandango, offering Fandango’s own loyalty program. The wording was very clear to me … join Fandango’s loyalty program and receive discounts based on purchase volume.

      I believe that some of that scamminess has changed now, and that they don’t represent themselves as the company you just purchased from or that company’s loyalty program. So that’s good. But clearly there was an effort on their part to represent themselves as something that they were not, and I think it’s a fair question for a US senator to ask – “Please show us evidence that you’ve changed your ways,” which is what he’s basically asking for.

  5. savdavid says:

    I hate that cheery female voice after a transaction “Congratulations!!! Just click below to claim your reward”. Well, if you call having your credit card charged monthly for something you don’t want or need a “reward” then you should be thrilled!

  6. robdew2 says:

    Popunder ads are now a problem for Congress?

  7. coren says:

    Wow, Commerce Science and Transport as one committee? What are the other committees, Defense Energy and Education with everyone’s least favorite Waste Management Public Relations and Ordering Lunch?

  8. Blueskylaw says:

    Do you mean to tell me that I’m not the
    ONE MILLIONTH visitor to this site?

  9. trujunglist says:

    What I don’t get is why more people aren’t getting pissed off at the retailers that use these things rather than getting pissed off at Webloyalty or whatever. It’s kind of like how guys get all pissed off when their gf cheats on them with some other guy and they go after the other guy, like it’s somehow all his fault. The retailers that use shit like this are the ones that need to be run into the ground. Who cares about Webloyalty when you should be targeting the real source of the problem?

    • mac-phisto says:

      @trujunglist: you’re right, but often times customers don’t remember where that happened. keep in mind that these companies often have a 30-day trial before they bill – if you’re shopping online a lot, it can be difficult to remember a purchase from a month ago.

      i have enough exposure to this that i can often pinpoint the transaction for someone that complains, but i doubt most banks are as adamant about railroading these tools as i am.

      you bring up an excellent point though. if you see a retailer engaging in these practices – even if you don’t get tripped up by them – it would be a great public service to forward a complaint to upper management.

  10. PLATTWORX says:

    I am not sure why consumers can’t seem to get the upper hand here. I have done a number of these offers for “30 days membership trials” and received gas cards, rebates on the purchase I just made, gift certificates, etc.

    You simply print the offer and put a mark on your calender to call or go online to cancel well before the trial ends.

    In every case, I have gotten my “reward” for trying these stupid services and pocketed it before the trial ends. The ONE place that still charged a membership to my credit card was greeted with a prompt dispute of the charge and issued a full credit.

    If you “play” this properly and don’t forget to cancel like an idiot, you can pocket a good deal.