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For Your Entertainment “Free” Membership and Magazine Offers Class Action

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Trans World Entertainment Corporation runs For Your Entertainment (FYE), which sells entertainment, video, and music products; Synapse Group, Inc. is a magazine marketer. The complaint for this class action claims that the two companies partnered to charge consumers for memberships and magazine subscriptions that they had not agreed to purchase.

Five subclasses have been proposed for this action. The Debit Card Subclass is all persons in the US who had their debit card charged or bank account debited by Trans world for a VIP Backstage Pass membership or by Synapse for magazine subscriptions, without Trans World or Synapse first getting proper written authorization, signed or similarly authenticated, for electronic funds transfers, between November 14, 2017 and November 14, 2018. There is also a Credit Card Subclass, a Membership Subclass, a Magazine Subscription Subclass, and a Connecticut Subclass.

At issue in this case are “Free to Pay” programs, the failure to disclose the full terms of “free” offers, and the charging of consumers’ credit or debt cards without their authorization. 

One of the three plaintiffs in this case, Adam Rovinelli, bought something at an FYE store using his credit card. At that time, the salesperson offer him a “free” “VIP Backstage Pass” (membership rewards card) and a “free” magazine trial offer. However, the complaint claims he was not given the full terms of the offers. 

In fact, the complaint claims, the offers were not free but free-to-pay conversions. Synapse billed Rovinelli’s credit card $42 on February 25, 2018 for magazines, and on March 1, 2018, Trans World charged the credit card $11.99 for an FYE Backstage Pass. 

Rovinelli had not given his authorization or consent for either transaction. Also, it seems that Trans World shared his credit card information with Synapse, without his knowledge or consent.

Although Trans World refunded his $11.99 when he complained, Synapse never did refund the unauthorized magazine charges.

The stories of the other two plaintiffs are similar, and the complaint reproduces more customer complaints from the Consumer Affairs website.

It also quotes reviews by former employees admitting to the scam:

  • “Corporate focus is off of the bread and butter of the company. Having to sell magazine subscriptions and discount cards which are both automatic debit scams.”
  • “Upper management literally expects you to deceive people into getting a discount card and magazines that begins as a free trial but will end up charging them.”
  • “And when they try to get ahold of the company, they are either put on extensive holds excessing more than 15 minutes or they are hung up on…”

The complaint alleges violations of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act and of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, and also alleges unjust enrichment and conversion, among other things.

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