A large majority of complaints about unauthorized charges stem from a free, or trial offer that ends up enrolling the consumer in some type of “membership” that bills their credit card each month.

Today, the state of Florida announced it has reached a settlement with one of the companies that packages these Internet offers. SubscriberBASE Holdings, Inc., of Columbia, S.C., will pay $800,000 to resolve the charges brought by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

According to Bondi, SubscriberBASE Holdings, Inc. promotes Internet-marketed goods and services, including free gifts to consumers who register for offers on the Internet. Allegedly, the “free” offers advertised through a popular social media site, search engines, and other Internet sites did not clearly and conspicuously disclose the terms and conditions of the offers.

Full disclosure

“Florida law requires that all advertisements, including Internet ads, provide sufficient disclosures about terms and fees and not be misleading,” Bondi said. “We are committed to protecting Floridians from unfair and deceptive trade practices, and we will not allow the Internet to become a medium where deceptive marketing practices flourish.”

Additionally, the email solicitations sent by, or on behalf of, SubscriberBASE Holdings, Inc. allegedly violated the Federal CAN-SPAM Act, which prohibits deceptive and misleading header information in commercial e-mails.

Free and trial offers almost always enroll the consumer in some type of relationship that carries a recurring charge. Because this information is in the small print, many consumers totally miss it, and are both angry and bewildered when strange charges show up on their credit cards.

Clear and conspicuous

Federal, as well as most state law, requires the terms of these types of offers to be stated in a “clear and conspicuous” manner. The Florida agreement specifies that SubscriberBASE Holdings, Inc. must disclose and prominently display all necessary information on Internet-based advertisements so that consumers can make informed decisions.

Consumers who believe they have been subject to unauthorized billing for Internet products should contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-866-966-7226 or by filing a complaint online

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