400,000 Iowans owed refunds from buying club cases

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More than 400,000 Iowans are eligible for refunds ranging from five dollars to hundreds of dollars in connection with three cases against buying clubs.

Stonebridge Benefit Services/JCPenney Direct Marketing, Affinion Group and Vertrue were each ordered to pay restitution after being found guilty of violating consumer protection laws in Iowa.

Iowa courts found Vertrue was deceptive when they tricked customers into paying fees for memberships they didn’t know they had, didn’t use and didn’t want, according to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.  Customers were hooked into membership when they responded to a cash-back, gift card or discount offer from a different merchant.

Affinion and Stonebridge did not admit wrongdoing, but each agreed to millions of dollars in refunds for customers convinced to sign up for similar membership programs, Miller said.  Some customers were enrolled in programs unless they opted out of enrollment; others were enrolled as an added service offered as they conducted a completely unrelated credit or debit card transaction.

Altogether, the companies involved were ordered to pay nearly $50-million in restitution.  Miller said most of the refunds owed range between $5 and $40 but some are substantially higher.

Eligible Iowans should receive a refund notice by mail.

If you have questions or think you might be owed a refund as part of the settlement, there is more information online – click here.