Ticketmaster Revamps Subscription-Offer Policy After Investigation

By | January 8, 2002 at 12:00 AM

The country’s leading concert ticket distributor will be more cautious in offering free trial magazine subscriptions to callers after an investigation found consumers were being automatically charged for full subscriptions, something many of them did not want.

Ticketmaster and Time, Inc. answered allegations from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer Monday (January 7) over the concert ticket giant’s “up-selling” of subscriptions to customers who phoned to purchase tickets for events across the country.

An investigation by Spitzer’s office discovered that since 1999, Ticketmaster operators have been offering free eight-week subscriptions to Entertainment Weekly or Sports Illustrated to its customers only to bill the credit card account used to buy the tickets at the end of the free trial period for a 27-week renewal if the customer did not take the initiative to cancel the subscription.

The attorney general’s office alleged that many consumers believed their cards would not be billed for the magazine subscription unless they informed Time, Inc., the publisher of the magazines being offered, they wanted the subscription to continue and gave them their billing information. Half of the 96,000 New York residents who received the free trial offer canceled their subscriptions only after they found a charge on their credit cards, the investigation found.

Ticketmaster and Time, Inc. have agreed to clearly disclose more details of the offer, including the amount that will be charged to the credit card and that it will be automatically charged unless the consumer acts to cancel, the number of issues in the free trial and how the consumer can cancel, according to Spitzer’s office.

Additionally, within 10 days of a consumer’s acceptance of the offer, Time, Inc. will send instructions on how the consumer can cancel. Ticketmaster and Time, Inc. also agreed to pay the state of New York $75,000 to cover the costs of the attorney general’s investigation.

While the settlement reached Monday specifically affects consumers in New York, a spokesperson for Spitzer’s office said most companies will change their tactics nationwide after this type of settlement. Ticketmaster has been offering the subscriptions to customers across the U.S.

Spitzer’s office has targeted other companies for using free trials to lure in consumers and then charging their credit cards. At least five businesses have faced the attorney general’s charges in the past 16 months, including Memberworks and BrandDirect, both discount buying clubs.

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