Most Americans at one point or another has dealt with or heard of unauthorized credit card charges. In fact, a large portion of credit card complaints is related to unwanted charges.
The issue is getting new attention recently because of a possible senate inquiry into unexplained credit card charges. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, issued a subpoena earlier this week to gain access to documents being used in an ongoing investigation on unauthorized charges.
In recent years, there have been a number of complaints regarding unwanted charges. Consumer groups accuse card companies of placing additional charges on credit cards used for online transactions.
Rockefeller has asked three card companies to provide essential documents connected to online "discount clubs." Investigators say that these clubs offer coupon or "cash back" rewards to encourage potential customers to enroll. The offers usually appear as pop-up advertisements after cardholders have transacted with online merchants. The offers are also available at the websites of large retailers. Discount clubs then pay the online retailers every time a client enrolls.
Investigators further explain that the pop-up offers then require consumers to enter their email addresses to avail of the rewards. What most cardholders do not know is that their cards are charged as part of the terms and conditions. Experts say that card companies and discount clubs often hide phrases related to fees and charges in the fine print, making it difficult for most cardholders to spot them. The retailer and the discount clubs then exchange important credit card information, usually with the cardholder fully unaware.
Experts say that most consumers are unaware that they are being charged since enrolling in the discount clubs through the pop-ups do not require credit card numbers.
In the subpoena, Rockefeller accused the discount clubs of not providing relevant documents and information regarding unauthorized charges. He says that the companies have to give up all pertinent data like internal discussions of consumer complaints, discussions with business partners, and the names and contact details of complainants.
Rockefeller also berated the companies, adding that they have deliberately tried to stall the committee's investigation by refusing to provide the requested documents. They have until August 18 to comply with the subpoena before company officials are required to attend questioning by the committee.
Consumer rights advocates say that the latest investigation and developments are a welcome relief to thousands of cardholders whose credit records and scores have been adversely affected.