It’s about time someone cracked down on this kind of deceptive marketing. Shopping on the Internet can be treacherous because of these companies.
Next week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a committee hearing on a report titled “Aggressive Sales Tactics on the Internet and their Impact on American Consumers.” During the meeting, they will … do exactly what that ridiculously long title says –investigate the marketing practices of companies that shadily sign up customers for unwanted services.
Here’s another example of such a service: If you go to the movie ticket vender Fandango.com, somewhere between buying the ticket and fully completing the transaction you’ll be moved to a “special offer” page. The offer, which TechCrunch has a screenshot of, is $10 off your next purchase from Fandango.
Sounds like a good deal. However, if you’re able to read the fine print, once you click on the offer, your credit or debit card details are transferred to a different company, and you’re enrolled in a program that costs you $12 a month.
There are basically three Connecticut-based marketing companies that are behind all this — Affinion, Vertrue or Webloyalty. They are now the target of a Senate investigation against companies that “use highly aggressive sales tactics to charge millions of American consumers for services the consumers do not want and do not understand they have purchased.”
The Senate is also investigating companies that have agreements with Affinion, Vertrue or Webloyalty. And there are a lot: A Senate report claims that “more than 450 e-commerce Web sites and retailers have partnered” with the marketing companies. Here are some of them:
* Classmates Online
* Continental Airlines
* Pizza Hut
* Tiger Direct
* US Airways
* Vistaprint USA
So why would a trusted e-commerce site partner up with those grease balls? Money, of course. Affinion, Vertrue, and Webloyalty’s e-commerce partners have earned more than $792 million.