Investigation Being Conducted Regarding the Online Marketing of Membership Clubs

The United State Commerce Committee has expanded its investigation into e-commerce companies which present membership club enrollment offers to their online customers and have the customers agree to pass their customers' credit card or debit card numbers to enroll in the membership club. Senator Rockefeller who is the Chairman of the Committee has entitled the investigation is focusing on this practice because it has been the center of criticism by consumer advocates.

The Committee for Commerce, Science and Transportation has issued sixteen letters o e-retailers requesting answers dealing with their affiliation with Affinion, Vertrue and WebLoyalty, three e-commerce companies being probed by the committee for "post-transaction" online business practices. These three e-commerce companies had received request letters for certain documentation as it applies to this issue. On July 28th, seventeen days after the initial request, the committee issued a subpoena to Vertrue for failure to answer with specificity to the questions posed.

The Committee is holding on "Aggressive Sales Tactics on the Internet and their Impact on American Consumers" on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009, The issue of post-transaction credit and debit charging by the aforementioned e-commerce companies appears to be the most prominent topic under review by the Committee.

Given the importance advance-consent (negative option) marketing plays in Internet marketing campaigns, this is a very important investigation for marketers to watch.

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