Nixon- Missourians to get up to $170,000 in lawsuit

Saturday, December 22, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missourians could receive up to $170,000 in restitution as part of a settlement with a Florida-based buying club company, the attorney general's office said Friday.

The money would be divided among an estimated 5,200 Missourians who were deceived into signing up for trial memberships with Triad Discount Buying Services, Attorney General Jay Nixon said.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge David Mason approved Missouri's portion of the settlement Thursday as part of a previous agreement among Triad and 48 states.

The national settlement calls for Triad to pay $8.3 million in restitution and $750,000 to cover investigative costs.

Nixon's office, which last year became the first to sue Triad, is to receive $125,000 for its costs, said spokesman Scott Holste.

Buying clubs offer discounts on a variety of services and products in exchange for membership fees. Triad companies, using different names, charged up to $96 a year.

Nixon said consumers who called a toll-free number to purchase products advertised on television ended up with an unauthorized buying club membership charged on their credit and debit cards.

Charges were automatically re-imposed annually, and consumers who called to cancel their memberships had a tough time getting through to the company, Nixon said.

"Consumers found themselves entangled in a web of unending credit or debit card charges, just because they called a toll-free number wanting to buy a cheap kitchen gadget late one night," Nixon said.

About 275,000 customers nationwide filed complaints against Triad companies.

The buying clubs run by Smolev used names including Best Price USA, America's Advantage and Discounts USA. In addition to the Triad companies, the settlement also covers operator Ira Smolev and includes prohibitions against misrepresenting "free" goods or services and the obligations of accepting trial offers.

The settlement requires Smolev to maintain a $1.5 million escrow account before he markets goods or services.

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