Attorney General Tom Miller’s asking the courts to force a Connecticut company to refund money to “thousands” of Iowans who unknowingly were signed up as members in a discount club. Miller has filed a lawsuit alleging that the “MemberWorks” discount buying club was a “slippery” operator. “We got a lot of complaints about MemberWorks, about 120 over the last two years. That’s a large number,” Miller says. “Complaints, as you know I think, are the tip of the iceberg of problems. They’re the early warning signals, the tea leaves that we can read about much more significant problems.”
Miller says after the consumer conducted a transaction with a credit card company or were buying something they’d seen in a catalogue or info-mercial, the telemarketer offered a free trial of membership in “MemberWorks.” Miller says it happened when the customer’s trying to end the call, and they say “yes” to the free trial and don’t realize their credit card will eventually be billed over and over unless they cancel their membership. Some consumers were charged 10-dollars-a-month, while others were charged yearly fees of as much as two-hundred-40 dollars.
Miller’s staff surveyed a small number of Iowans who were enrolled in “MemberWorks.” Miller says he wanted to find out if people were satisfied with the MemberWorks services, because if they were then “it’s not something the government generally should be too concerned about.” Sixty-seven percent said they weren’t even aware that they were members of the discount club, and zero percent reported being “satisfied” with the service.
Miller and his staff are contemplating legal action against the businesses which had their telemarketers signing people up for MemberWorks after customers had conducted other business over the phone. “We really make an appeal to legitimate companies not to use their good name to abuse, really, their customers through these membership clubs,” Miller says. A few other states have taken action against the MemberWorks discount membership club, which is now know as Vertrue, Incorporated.