Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a national online apparel company will return as much as $695,000 to approximately 5,700 Washingtonians that it enrolled into a monthly subscription service.
According to a release, from 2012 through 2017, Adore Me, a national company that sells lingerie and other women’s clothes online, placed a pre-checked box on all its online orders that enrolled Washingtonians into a monthly “VIP Membership.”
According to the AG, individuals who did not notice the pre-checked box, especially those who made a one-time purchase, may not have known that the company automatically enrolled them into a membership program that charged them monthly fees.
The company continued to charge many individuals $39.95 per month for the “VIP Membership”, which it put into their accounts to use for future purchases.
“However, many Washingtonians did not know this money went into an account and accrued during the course of many months.
In October 2022, Ferguson released the results of a consumer survey that revealed 59% of Washingtonians — approximately 3.5 million — may have been unintentionally enrolled in a subscription plan or service when they thought they made a one-time purchase. Respondents reported that pre-check boxes constituted a significant source of the problem.
If individuals asked for their money back, Adore Me allegedly made it difficult to receive any money back.
Ferguson asserted Adore Me’s conduct violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act and constituted unfair or deceptive business practices.
“Deceiving Washingtonians into subscriptions they don’t want cheats the consumer and hurts other businesses that play by the rules,” Ferguson said. “I am committed to ending these schemes. If this happened to you, contact my office so we can help.”
A court order filed in Thurston County Superior Court requires Adore Me to pay restitution to Washingtonians who accumulated monthly fees in their accounts and want that credit back as cash.
Washingtonians can either opt for a cash payout or use the money to purchase apparel from the retailer. The Attorney General’s Office will contact Washington consumers who may be eligible for restitution via email.
As part of the conditions of the legally enforceable order, Adore Me must:
- Clearly and conspicuously disclose all fees, costs, conditions, limitations and restrictions applicable to the VIP Membership program so consumers can make an informed decision for enrollment;
- Promptly honor consumer cancellation requests;
- Abandon all practices requiring a consumer to complete an online quiz or survey in order to cancel their VIP Membership program, and not make more than one attempt to keep them enrolled once a consumer has indicated an intent to cancel; and
- Cease the billing of recurring charges to any consumers enrolled in the VIP Membership program who have accumulated 12 months of store credit via recurring charges.
Adore Me still offers this VIP Membership but it now has greater transparency for the terms of the program, following a 2017 resolution with the Federal Trade Commission. The commission asserted the company made it hard to cancel memberships, including by limiting how consumers could submit cancellation requests, understaffing its customer service department and putting consumers through drawn-out cancellation processes.
In January, national apparel retailer Victoria’s Secret took ownership of Adore Me.
Washington part of a multistate resolution
Ferguson was part of a resolution with 32 attorneys general over Adore Me’s deceptive conduct. Separate from the restitution, Adore Me paid $2.3 million to the states. The Attorney General’s Office will receive $68,872 of that total to use for enforcement of future consumer protection actions.
Along with Washington, the Attorneys General from Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin joined the resolution.
The Attorney General’s Office responds to every consumer complaint. It fields approximately 24,000 complaints annually, and returns tens of millions of dollars per year to consumers through its informal complaint resolution process, which involves working with businesses to resolve consumer complaints pre-investigation or litigation.
Washingtonians can file a complaint here: https://www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint