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Marketing group to pay back $30 million for misleading consumers

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RALEIGH, N.C. - Affinion  agrees to pay back $30 million dollars to consumers it tricked into joining its discount clubs.

The North Carolina Attorney General, Roy Cooper, says they received numerous complaints of unexplainable charges showing up on people's credit card and bank statements. Coopers says in response, North Carolina, joined 46 other states to file a lawsuit against Affinion and its subsidiaries Trilegiant and Webloyalty. This month the company agreed to a settlement of $30 million dollars in refunds and penalties.

"If we see a number of consumers that have been hurt by a company or particular scam artist, then we can bring an action in court on behalf of all of them. Generally, we use a law called the unfair and deceptive trade practices statues.  It covers a lot of different unfair and deceptive tricks that some scam artists and some companies on consumers. We use this statue to get refunds back for consumers when they have been ripped of and to get company's to pay penalties to try and deter them from doing it in the future," said  Cooper.

9 On Your Side sat down with Cooper to find out how this trick works. Cooper says many of the people targeted were online shoppers. Cooper says the trickery happened when an online shopper went to checkout. He says a pop-up would show up offering a discount on the next purchase. When the customer clicked on it, they were being signed up for one of  Affinion's discount clubs. The customers wouldn't know they were enrolled until they checked their monthly statements and saw the unusual charges.

The charges ranged from $8 to $15.99.

Cooper is encouraging the public to take a look at their statements to see if they were charged and are due a refund.

"If you have any kind of charge that you don't what it is. You might want to contact our office, so we can check it out," said Cooper.

In addition to the refund, Cooper says Affinion also agreed to changed some of its practices.

"They have agreed to stop doing this type of clicking people into something that they didn't agree to do. It gives them also more periodic information about what they've joined and how much it costs," said Cooper.

Cooper says Affinion also agreed to make it easier for consumers to cancel after discovering the enrollment charges.

In addition to online shoppers, Affinion also mailed out what appeared to be checks  and when consumers went to cash them, they were enrolled in the discount programs and charged monthly.
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