Online company settles with Iowa AG

By Bryan Cohen | Jul 20, 2012


DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has announced an assurance of voluntary compliance with a Florida-based online membership club retailer that allegedly charged for memberships in the company's programs.

BestBrandValues.com sells products online such as vitamins, posters, video games, music, videos and books. Consumers were allegedly enrolled in a buying club after making a purchase on the site or one of its affiliates, including SmartSavingsCenter.com, DiscountPosterSale.com, HotMovieSale.com, HotBookSale.com and DiscountBookSale.com. Nearly 4,000 Iowans allegedly paid monthly membership charges to the company ranging from $9.95 to $19.95 per month.

"We allege that when consumers ordered a book, video, or some other item in response to one of BestBrandValue's online offers they would end up being enrolled as members," Miller said. "Monthly membership charges would start appearing on credit card or bank statements. Consumers we contacted did not know they had been enrolled, and they sometimes paid month after month of membership charges for a membership they didn't want, didn't use, and didn't even know about."

BestBrandValues allegedly violated Iowa's Buying Club Law by enrolling consumers without their knowledge.

"A consumer completing an online order would be given the chance to save $5, but clicking to get the savings led to membership charges disclosed in small print," Miller said. "Iowa law requires much more prominent disclosures when it comes to enrollments in buying club memberships."

Under the terms of the agreement, BestBrandValues must pay $135,000 in refunds, $10,000 to the state for consumer fraud enforcement and comply with the state's Buying Club Law for any future membership sales. BestBrandValues denies any liability as part of the agreement.

"Our Consumer Protection Division is seeing more and more instances in which Iowans are being charged by one operation or another for memberships they don't know they're paying for," Miller said. "We can't emphasize enough how important it is to monitor charges on your credit and debit cards, and challenge any that don't look right."

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