A Tuesday, Nov. 17 segment on TODAY covered a Senate investigation of online membership club offers. Below statements are from the three membership club companies under investigation by the Senate Commerce Committee and their online retailer partners.
Statement from Vertrue spokesperson George Thomas:
Thank you for providing us with the opportunity to comment for your piece. I do want to offer a few brief and specific comments on your questions before providing more detailed information and background, which you will find in the attached letter. Adaptive’s Internet marketing disclosures and practices are both clear and legitimate (see background section of attached letter for detail on references to Vertrue vs. Adaptive). Adaptive’s marketing practices include requiring consumers to take affirmative action to enroll; sending confirmation emails to consumers to verify enrollment; clear, conspicuous and repeated disclosures regarding the program and enrollment process; and providing a toll free customer service number on all billing statements so that consumers can call with questions or to cancel their enrollments. Importantly, in dismissing several lawsuits questioning the clarity of Adaptive’s Internet marketing practices, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy F. Atlas wrote on August 31, 2009: “[p]laintiffs’ allegations regarding the deceptive nature of the web pages at issue is clearly and unequivocally refuted by the website pages themselves…” The Court further added that the “language is clear and easily understandable by anyone capable of making an online purchase…” Finally, the Court found, “The Court’s review of the webpages… convinces the Court without reservation that, as a matter of law, the webpages are not deceptive." As to financial information, as a private company it has been our longstanding policy not to make such information public. Of the millions of consumers who enroll in Adaptive programs each year, fewer than one percent have registered complaints about the programs. Adaptive’s marketing practices are not only clear but its programs provide consumers with access to significant and realizable benefits.
Statement from Affinion spokesperson James Hart:
Affinion has a long-standing history of employing the best marketing practices in the industry and our programs provide tremendous value for millions of consumers worldwide. While our marketing always incorporates clear, prominent and unambiguous terms, we continually reevaluate the offers to make certain consumers are able to make fully informed decisions. Over the past few months, we have worked very openly with the Senate Commerce Committee. We expect to continue this dialogue, both with the Committee and with our customers, as we continue to review and enhance our marketing to ensure we remain the industry leader in both standards and quality.
Statement from Orbitz.com spokesperson Brian Hoyt:
Orbitz has proactively and voluntarily worked with Senator Rockefeller and his staff to ensure that e-commerce companies improve notification for customers who want to participate in these membership discount programs. This dialogue has helped further improve the sign up and notification process on Orbitz. Areas of notification on Orbitz have long included bold messaging of the promotional terms and the act of entering a customer's email address multiple times before enabling entry into the program. WebLoyalty also sends Orbitz customers a follow up email to confirm their entry into the program, which includes information on how to cancel if there is any misunderstanding. We added a heightened level of security and notification for consumers interested in the program offered by WebLoyalty. All customers must re-enter the last 4 digits of the credit card (CC4) before they are able to participate in WebLoyalty's discount program. We believe that this additional layer of security provides added assurance that consumers fully intend for us to transfer this information to our advertising partner. Orbitz takes the privacy of our customers’ information seriously and does not pass on any personally identifiable customer information to third party vendors without their permission. Orbitz is confident we have taken the appropriate steps to ensure clear notification of terms to our customers who have wanted to enter into WebLoyalty's membership discount program. In fact, we receive a very small number of complaints from customers who communicate to Orbitz that they were unclear they had entered the discount program. Less than one tenth of one percent (0.1%) of customer inquiries are related to WebLoyalty's program, and we have ensured each of those customers are refunded by our partners for any misunderstanding they experienced in the sign-up process. During these tough economic times, Orbitz is focused on delivering as much value as possible to consumers. Orbitz works with WebLoyalty because we believe that their service provides value to consumers. Like other offline discount clubs, WebLoyalty provides consumers in the online world the ability to save hundreds of dollars by taking advantage of membership deals and offers from over 500 merchants, including cash back on transactions made on Orbitz.com.
Statement from Priceline.com spokesperson Brian Elk:
Affinion is one of many advertisers on priceline.com and represents significantly less than 1% of priceline.com’s revenues. Affinion’s voluntary membership program delivers money saving benefits, including up to $50 cash back on a customer’s priceline.com reservation, 5% off on all future priceline.com reservations, and savings at retailers like Costco, Target and Sears. We believe that the offer details and the signup process on the priceline.com website is clearly and fully explained. Less than 1% of all customers who sign up for the offer contact us seeking a refund. Moreover, customers who do contact us saying they were confused by the offer receive a full refund. Even after they receive that refund, customers get to keep the cash back from their priceline.com purchase.
Statement from US Airways spokesperson Morgan Durrant:
US Airways is investigating the matter and we intend to cooperate fully with the Senate investigation.
Statement from Shutterfly.com spokesperson Gretchen Sloan:
Shutterfly is strongly committed to customer loyalty and takes any complaints by its customers very seriously. As such, Shutterfly offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of its products and services. We hold our partners to equal standards, and thus Webloyalty must abide by the same 100% satisfaction guarantee for Shutterfly customers, which includes making it easy for a Shutterfly customer to cancel the program if a customer is dissatisfied for any reason. The vast majority of our customers who participate in the Webloyalty program value the rewards they receive. As a result of the multi-step enrollment process, we have only received complaints from less than one half of one percent of customers who enroll.
Statement from 1-800-Flowers.com spokesperson Yanique Woodall:
1-800-FLOWERS.COM values and respects the relationships we have with our millions of customers. Recently, we received a letter from the Senate Committee and have been in contact with them in response to their questions regarding our LiveWell progam. We are cooperating fully with the Committee in their inquiry. We are proud of the value added LiveWell program, which is custom designed with input from our customers. To date, complaints related to the program have been extremely low, less than 0.2 percent of total enrolled customers. Each customer who chooses to participate in the program does so after acknowledging a full understanding of the terms and conditions of the program and provides their affirmative consent to enroll.
Statement from Movietickets.com spokesperson Michele Clarke:
The company doesn't feel it's appropriate to comment on this to media out of respect to the Committee's investigation.