By Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — With Cyber Monday, the unofficial start of the Internet holiday shopping season nearing, a Senate committee Tuesday condemned three online companies, saying they are tricking consumers into signing up for subscription services they don't want.
Internet companies Affinion, Vertrue and Webloyalty are using aggressive sales tactics to scam millions of customers, the Senate Commerce Committee said.
According to a committee report, the three companies enter into agreements with other more familiar Internet shopping sites that sell movie tickets, flowers and other items.
Just before a customer completes the sales confirmation process the customer gets an offer that often promises $10 cash back or other rewards, and appears to be connected to the shopper's original transaction.
When the shopper clicks "continue," or "yes," the shopper — often without knowing — enters into a new financial contract with a membership club operated by Affinion, Vertrue or Webloyalty, the report said. The shopper's credit card information is sent to the membership club company, which charges monthly fees, by the shopping site the shopper originally visited.
"Beware if you're a consumer," said the committee's chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "I worry about this because the holiday shopping season is just beginning." He added that while the companies insist they are not breaking any laws, "just because what you say you do is legal doesn't make it right."
While the day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, historically the point when retailers start to turn a profit, the following Monday has become known as Cyber Monday because it's the day when many shoppers begin trolling the Internet for bargains from computers at work or home.