Ticketmaster, AOL Settle NY Charges

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Entertainment conglomerates Ticketmaster and AOL Time Warner agreed to pay refunds and change marketing practices to settle New York state charges that their inbound teleservices representatives misled consumers into buying subscriptions to Time publications.

Ticketmaster call center operators have offered eight-week free trial magazine subscriptions to customers as upsells since 1999, part of a joint marketing effort with AOL Time Warner, according to the New York attorney general's office. Depending on whether a Ticketmaster customer was buying tickets to a sports event or a general entertainment event, operators would offer a subscription to either Sports Illustrated or Entertainment Weekly.

Those consumers who failed to cancel their subscriptions within the allotted trial period subsequently received charges against their credit cards for 27-week subscriptions, the state attorney general said. The attorney general charged the companies with failing to disclose to consumers that they would be charged if they failed to cancel.

Many consumers believed they would not receive charges unless they gave express authorization, the attorney general said. Approximately 96,000 New York state residents received the free trial, and roughly half acted to cancel their subscriptions only after discovering the unexpected charges on their credit cards, according to the charges.

To settle the charges, Time agreed to make refunds to consumers who file complaints and pay an additional $75,000 to cover the state's investigation. Both Time and Ticketmaster also agreed to increase disclosures in their free trial offers and to send written affirmations to consumers.

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