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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has filed suit against Active Network for allegedly tricking consumers into enrolling in a membership club with an annual fee.
Active operates a payment system that is used by the organizers of events and activities, such as the YMCA. It collects payments from individuals signing up for events, keeps a portion of the fee as its compensation, and forwards the balance on to the organizer. Active also operates a paid membership club that offers discounts for products and services, not necessarily related to the event that the individuals signed up to participate in. Active inserted a webpage into event registrations that offered individuals free trial enrollment in the club. The CFPB alleged that a button on the webpage labeled “Accept” made it appear as though the individual was accepting charges to his or her credit or debit card to participate in the event. In fact, it was a trial enrollment in the paid membership club that converted to a paid membership if the individual did not opt out before the end of the trial period. The CFPB alleged that this was an unfair and deceptive practice. The CFPB called this enrollment method a "dark pattern": Dark patterns are hidden tricks or trapdoors that companies build into their websites to get consumers to inadvertently click links, sign up for subscriptions, or purchase products or service. The CFPB also alleged that Active violated the Electronic Funds Transfer Act by increasing the annual membership fee without notifying individuals in advance.