Iowa AG settles with Ohio marketing company

Bryan Cohen Feb. 28, 2012, 1:27pm


DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced the recovery of $700,000 on Thursday as part of a settlement with an Ohio marketing company to resolve allegations of unlawfully charging approximately 2,800 Iowans for memberships.

AmeriMark Direct LLC of Cleveland agreed to an assurance of voluntary compliance in May that required the company to make payments into a fund to provide Iowans with partial refunds. AmeriMark has sent all of the required payments and the Consumer Protection Division has commenced mailing refund checks to all consumers in Iowa that are eligible.

The checks range from $63 to $1,780. The division looked into AmeriMark after receiving a complaint in September 2010 from an Iowan who alleged that her credit card was charged more than $1,500 during a four year period for a membership she had no knowledge of signing up for.

"Our investigation found that AmeriMark had been making phone pitches for memberships when customers called in to order items from the company's catalogs," Miller said. "But Iowans were being enrolled without getting the notices and disclosures required by Iowa law. The company agreed to stop the unlawful enrollments and charges, and to provide money for refunds."

Under the terms of the agreement, AmeriMark denied liability.

The division contacted multiple Iowans who were long-term members of programs through AmeriMark, typically paying membership charges every month through their debit or credit cards. Each of these Iowans contacted was allegedly unaware of the ongoing charges for the membership.

AmeriMark is a seller of jewelry, personal care products, women's apparel and health-related merchandise sold through catalogues such as Essentials, Complements, Feel Good Store, Time for Me, Beauty Boutique, Windsor Collection, Healthy Living and Anthony Richards. The membership programs were called Easy Living, ID Sentinel Alert, Passport To Health and Passport To Savings.

The customers who placed phone orders from one of the catalogs allegedly received an unexpected sales pitch recommending the customer try one of the memberships for a small initial charge that would increase over subsequent months if the consumer did not cancel.

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