SALEM, Oregon (Legal Newsline) - Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced a $552,000 settlement Friday with a Florida-based internet retailer that allegedly charged Oregonians improper membership fees over the last five years.

Best Brand Values and multiple related companies allegedly enrolled customers in a shopping club when they clicked on a blinking free shipping icon while buying discounted goods on the companies' websites. Best Brand Values then allegedly continued to electronically bill the consumers' credit card, debit card or bank account between $10 and $20 a month.

"This case illustrates one of the perils of the internet economy," Rosenblum said. "Consumers can make themselves vulnerable with the click of a mouse. Constant vigilance is the best defense. Oregonians need to closely track their monthly credit card and bank records to ensure they're not being taken advantage of."

The automatically recurring charges allegedly added up, causing some of the 5,233 affected Oregonian customers to pay more than $1,000 over time. Rosenblum's office found that most of the local customers were not aware they were being regularly billed for the membership.

Under the terms of the agreement, Best Brand Values and its affiliates will pay $252,000 in refunds to Oregonians and $300,000 to the Department of Justice Protection and Education Account. Best Brand Values will also change its websites to warn consumers about membership fees and make it easier to reject membership.

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