PORTLAND -- You may have never heard of Premier Membership Clubs, but neither had thousands of people who said the company took their money without them knowing why.
After a three-month investigation, the Oregon Department of Justice has taken action to keep the company from doing business in the state again.
Unit 8 began its own investigation when 24-year-old Beaverton college student Kayla Schacht said she saw a $99.49 debit from her checking account.
She didn’t remember buying anything for that amount and hadn’t heard of the company, Premier Membership Clubs. When she checked her statement, she found out what thousands of other Oregon residents already knew.
Somehow, Premier Membership Clubs had her name, address, checking account and even her Social Security number. She said when she called her bank to ask for a refund they denied the request. They cited an electronic check made out to “Premier” from her account, with all the correct information. Then she did a web search on the company.
“I was really surprised,” Schacht told Unit 8. “There were hundreds and thousands of complaints on many different websites and Better Business Bureaus about exactly the same thing. A $99.49 charge from a company nobody had ever heard of. “
Unit 8 contacted the Better Business Bureau and discovered the company has an “F” rating.
“With Premier Membership Clubs, which is now linked to Platinum Online Group there are over 140 complaints and the majority of those the company has failed to respond,” said Kyle Kavas of the BBB.
The BBB and Oregon’s Department of Justice say many of the consumers complaining reported filling out information for online payday loan applications. They say Premier Membership Clubs would then use that information to enroll applicants into a “shopping club” with an upfront fee and recurring monthly charges.
“People are shopping online or filling out applications and then later they are being opted into these marketing programs, " Kavas said. "Maybe they didn’t see a tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the entry or submit page.”
Kayla Schacht said she never applied for a loan and didn't know how the company got her personal banking information. She eventually got her money after appealing her bank’s decision. She said she is still worried the company has her check routing information and Social Security number.
The State of Oregon settled with Premier Membership Clubs after investigating consumer complaints. The company will refund more than $115,000 to consumers and will pay $50,000 to the Consumer Protection Fund. It also agreed to no longer do business in Oregon.
The Oregon Attorney General’s Office said the company uses the names Super Value Coupon, ID Theft Value Membership, Saving Pays Club and Money Plus Saver. The state says Premier is a wholly-owned subsidiary of EDebitPay, which the FTC recently fined $3.7 million for violating an agreement. An investigation had found EDebitPay was involved in deceptive marketing.