High-street shops sever links with discount firm Webloyalty

Debenhams, Asda, Thomas Cook, HMV and B&Q have severed or suspended their ties with one of the UK’s biggest “pop up” internet discount groups, Webloyalty, after the scheme prompted a wave of complaints.

It is believed that hundreds of objections have been made by angry shoppers, unaware they had been signed up to pay £10 a month in membership fees to the company’s Shoppers Discounts & Rewards programme.

A spokesman for B&Q said: “We’ve removed the website Shopper Discounts & Rewards from our affiliate network with immediate effect. We’re grateful that this matter has been brought to our attention and would like to apologise to any customer who has been inconvenienced through using this site.”

A spokesman for Debenhams said: “We would never want to be associated with such a scheme and we will review our relationship with Incentive Networks [a wholly owned subsidiary of Webloyalty] as a result of this.”

Webloyalty recruits members by placing pop-up ads offering customers £15 off future purchases on a range of websites. The small print states that by applying for the discount and entering personal details, shoppers agree to a subscription.

“It’s misleading, but it’s not illegal,” said Graham Charlton from digital publisher Econsultancy. “Generally, people scan information and don’t necessarily read the terms and conditions.”

In January, Webloyalty agreed an out-of-court settlement in the US as it faced legal action against its loyalty scheme Reservations Rewards.

A spokesman for Webloyalty said: “We understand that some consumers, regardless of the abundance of clear and conspicuous disclosures, may still complain that they were unaware, or perhaps subsequently forgot, that they had enrolled in a membership programme. Any suggestion that consumers have been signed up for Webloyalty’s service without their knowledge or consent would be false.”

The spokesman declined to comment on how many of its members had been refunded because of confusion over its sign-up policy.