Consumer Protection, Internet Style: ProFlowers.com

by on August 25, 2009 · 19 comments

Our job here at TLF is generally to talk about policy as opinion leaders, but I tend to be a little campaign-y sometimes. When I see something I don’t like, I’ll use this platform to sound off about it.

It appears that ProFlowers.com engages in a shady practice: handing customers who accept a “special offer” from them to a company that charges people a monthly fee for what appears to be some kind of credit monitoring service. There are write-ups of varying depth and quality here, here, here, and here.

Question: Does the Internet provide enough feedback to suppress this practice? How could the e-commerce ecosystem be changed to alert people about this kind of thing ahead of time?

Being a smart, informed, and aggressive consumer is each person’s responsibility if a free market is to operate well. The alternative is a negative feedback loop in which government authorities protect us, we rely on that protection and stop policing retailers. Thereby we abandon the field of consumer protection to government authorities, who—try as they might—can never do as good a job for us as we can for ourselves.

Should we each run a “scam” search on new online businesses before we deal with them? Maybe so. But that’s a little clunky. With the popularity of Firefox plug-ins for problem solving around here, maybe one of the consumer review/complaint sites could develop a plug-in to provide people reviews of a retailer as they visit the site.

I hope that prompting a conversation around the apparent ProFlowers.com credit card ripoff scam will alert savvy shoppers to a risk of doing business with them. (For the sake of searchability, feel free to blog a little bit yourself about the apparent ProFlowers credit card ripoff scam.) Perhaps this discussion will also generate a systemic fix that preempts shady dealings of the type alleged here.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Well here is one of my “exposures”: href=”http://srynas.blogspot.com/2009/08/verizons-onerous-terms-of-use.html>Verizons Onerous Terms of Use.

    I think that this is being presented as too much of a black and white issue. There is a middle ground, which I believe that some Libertarians are unwilling to comprehend. If we are to live in a civilized society, one has to accept that your actions can damage another and that one should assume responsibility (restraint) for not damaging others. So, in the case of ProFlowers, if they are not willing to correct their behavior; they should be actively hounded by the likes of the better business bureau or other “free” market advocates. The reluctance in exposing market abuses by those who advocate a free market in exposing market abuses are doing themselves a disservice. Please see my post Misplaced Regulatory Blame II.

    If the “free” market can't police itself, my reaction is regulation since you proved yourself unworthy of your entitlement to freedom. My middle ground, before we get to regulation, the business community should apply real public pressure to keep the free market clean.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Ah, yes, freedom is a privilege granted by The State to those who prove themselves worthy! Danke schoen, mein Herr Kampkomandant!

    Those of us who want to be free better get to work. After all, Arbeit macht frei, right? (“Work makes [you] free,” as the welcome signs at most concentration camps reminded their new guests.)

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    But there is the reverse logic. Corporations would have the freedom to steal from people, even to the point of invading their homes to assure that the products “leased” to the consumer are being used “correctly”! Furthermore, the term “correctly” would be ethereal at best, since corporations would assert that they have a right to unilaterally change the terms of service at their whim. The logical conclusion is that those who have economic power (king) would be always be “right” while all others (landless peasants) would always be “wrong”. Hmm, sounds a bit like feudalism.

    To move us out of this feudalistic derangement, in line with the art work at the TLF, I might suggest implementing a modernized version of “Council of the People's Commissars” to create a new workers paradise.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    I didn't get a good nights sleep, the peasants where out with their torches and pitch forks demanding justice. Anyway, I remembered this Larry Kudlow clip Market Malaise. The video clip is 16 minutes long, but the significant portion begins at minute 14. Larry is a major proponent of a minimally regulated free market. But, as a response to the bursting of our financial bubble, he has advocated the need for ethical behavior.

    Even Adam Thierer noted Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments

  • http://diretes.com/blog/ rok

    Ah, yes, freedom is a privilege granted by The State to those who prove themselves worthy! Danke schoen, mein Herr Kampkomandant!

    Those of us who want to be free better get to work! After all, Arbeit macht frei, right? (“Work makes [you] free,” as the welcome signs at most concentration camps reminded their new guests.)

    http://diretes.com/blog/

  • chinaman4u

    I discovered this because I couldn't figure out what a $14.95 charge on my checking account came from so I searched “easy saver” and found this.

    Called 1 800 355 1837 and gave them my information, and nicely and politely ask that they cancel further billing and promised to refund for the past 18 months that I have been charged.

    A relatively painless, hasslefree call… now we'll see if I get my money back totaling $270.00!!!

    I specifically said, “Hi…I never signed up for this service through Proflowers, I would like to stop further charges and talk about a refund.” Her immediate answer was, “Is this through a debit card or credit card?” Then since it ws through debit, she offered a 12 mo refund through the bank card and the additional 6 mo through a check mailed to me.

    -herman

  • donnar

    I am having the same problem with these thieves. Why is this not illegal? It is like pick-pocketing. They owe me $75.00 and politely say that they will refund my money but never do and keep debiting my account. How do I get them to stop?

  • chinaman4u

    I have received all money owed within 10 days amounting to $270!

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  • airlinesjobs

    I am having the same problem with these thieves. Why is this not illegal? It is like pick-pocketing. They owe me and politely say that they will refund my money but never do and keep debiting my account. How do I get them to stop?

    http://www.staffing power.com

  • airlinesjobs

    I am having the same problem with these thieves. Why is this not illegal? It is like pick-pocketing. They owe me and politely say that they will refund my money but never do and keep debiting my account. How do I get them to stop?

    http://www.staffing power.com

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