Consumer Payment Card News

Slamming Charges

A Florida woman who just wanted to see The Who in concert had her credit card slammed with unwanted charges from two of America’s top brand names. Her frustration in clearing up the problem has given way to a major federal lawsuit against Ticketmaster and Time, Inc. In September Victoria McLean of Valrico, Florida purchased tickets for a September 2000 concert by The Who in Tampa. When McLean called Ticketmaster, she refused offers for a subscription and for Who merchandise. However, McLean’s next credit card bill showed a $372.17 charge separate from the cost of the concert tickets. Shortly afterward, a package arrived at her home containing 11 Who tour T-shirts, as well as 11 Who pins.
Shortly afterward, Mrs. McLean received a letter under the dual letterhead of Ticketmaster and Entertainment Weekly. The letter said she was going to receive eight free issues of the magazine on a trial basis. Her credit card would then be billed $24.95 for a subscription unless she canceled the deal, the lawsuit stated. The lawsuit describes a pattern of consumers discovering unwanted subscriptions to Time Inc. magazines billed to their credit cards shortly after they make purchases from Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster and Time have been the subject of numerous complaints relating to unsolicited magazine subscriptions. Time Inc.’s previous magazine promotions with sweepstakes house American Family Publishers came under heavy attack from state attorneys general and consumer groups. In recent months Time executives have described their increasing use of the technique called “continuous service,” which seeks to pay for subscriptions through indefinite credit cards billings, instead of the traditional limited-term subscription.

The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, was filed in Circuit Court in Hillsborough County, which is home both to Mrs. McLean and to Time Inc.’s magazine customer service center.

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