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Friday, February 18, 2011

Internet Businesses Sued for 'defrauding' Online Shoppers

Posted By on Fri, Feb 18, 2011 at 3:25 PM

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Daniel Cox was just trying to buy flowers from ProFlowers.com when an ad popped up , offering him free shipping.

Great, who wouldn't want free shipping?

So he clicked on the ad, beginning what has now turned into a major class action lawsuit against two online companies.

Thousands of customers who were online shopping have filed a lawsuit against two companies -- Provide-Commerce and Clarus Marketing Group -- claiming they enrolled them into a membership program without their consent.

This is what happened: While shoppers were "checking-out" an advertisement popped up offering free shipping on the items they had just bought as well as 12 future purchases. By clicking on the ad users unwittingly agreed to the offer, which actually costs them $15 a month, according to the lawsuit filed this week in San Francisco Superior Court.

The terms of the purported "free shipping" were supposedly obscured. To cap it off, shoppers didn't know that by clicking on this they would continued to get billed the $15 a month.

Cox, an Alameda resident, said he when he clicked on the ad that offered him free shipping, he "never believed he had joined any type of membership program and he never intended to do so," the lawsuit states.

Cox then discovered charges on his credit card made by Clarus. The same thing happened to another plaintiff who was shopping on RedEnvelope.com.

"Plaintiffs were never told they were no longer on ProFowers.com or RedEnvelope.com website anymore -- or had been knowingly directed to a [Clarus] interface," according to the complaint.

But by clicking on the ad, shoppers had authorized their billing information to go to the third party -- Provide-Commerce, a San Diego-based company that operates multiple online businesses.

The suit states that the two companies blame plaintiffs for not reading disclosures more carefully before giving away their personal information, including their e-mail and address.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Bio:
Erin Sherbert has been Online News Editor for SF Weekly since 2010. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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