According to a survey conducted by Visa, there are about three in 10 Americans who have inadvertently joined or have maintained a subscription to a club that they have never heard of, or that they have never recalled joining in such. Complaints from credit card holders' state that these "clubs" charge $10 or more per month and that membership dues could amount to as high as $50.
The fees are actually charged directly into credit cards and reflected on the monthly bill statements. After making a purchase to an online store, some consumers are enticed into signing-up or giving-up their e-mail address to certain promotions which suddenly pop-up on their screens. The promotions range from free shipping to cash discounts on the next purchase. And even if one had paid the fees, there are actually no benefits derived from them. This is what experts refer to as "post transaction marketing."
The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee estimated that at least $1.4 billion in revenue was collected thru this marketing scheme in the last 10 years. Headed by Senator Jay Rockefeller, an investigation which had begun in 2009 is currently being finalized by said committee. It stated that Norwalk, Connecticut based companies Vertrue, Webloyalty and Affinion Group are its biggest players. The earnings is being split to other company websites such as Barnes & Noble, Avon, Buy.com, Budget, GMAC Mortgage, Classmates.com, Shutterfly, Priceline, MovieTickets.com, Ticketmaster and Staples.
The committee also found out that websites such as Priceline.com, Orbitz.com and Comcast have made over $10 million each with its partnership from marketing businesses. United Online is even reported to have earned $70 million while Shutterfly made $6 million in the last 10 years. There are about 19 online retailer stores that have made more then $10 million the past 10 years.
The "transaction" involves the transfer of credit card information by online stores, without the knowledge of the consumer, to the post transaction company. This is referred to as a "data pass." Getting a refund usually takes time and the chargeback must be made by writing or filing of a formal complaint to the company one had inadvertently subscribed to.
Rockefeller said that aggressive sales tactics are being used which misleads online shoppers. He estimates that there are over 4 million Americans who are being charged by this transaction and most does not even know that such a thing is happening. With investigations at hand, a committee report might eventually lead to a law which would regulate, if not stop, this practice.