Friday, 16 June 2017

Beware Easylife Group Limited, 'free trial' Easylife Rewards Club and Rocket Marketing Group - Why have they charged me?







Beware Easylife Group Limited, 'free trial' Easylife Rewards Club membership and Rocket Marketing Group


Also beware 241 Hotel Card membership, Gourmet Society membership, Discover Britain Card membership

Buyers who purchased a household product by telephone from the Easylife Group Ltd (11-13 Kings Terrace London) catalogue are offered a 21 day free trial membership to a club that claims to save you money on high street shopping.

The Easylife Rewards Club is operated by the Rocket Marketing Group based in Brighton.




You're asked to pay £2.99 to cover postage for the free vouchers and membership pack. This payment is taken when you make your purchase of goods from the catalogue. The discounts provided by Easy Rewards Club appear to be many of the same offers you can easily find all over the internet for free. 

What may be less clear is that unless you cancel the 'free trial' before the 21 day trial ends your full annual membership will be charged at £69.98 - to the same card you used to buy something from the catalogue.

At that point Easylife Rewards Club (operated by the Rocket Marketing Group in Brighton) will have been passed all your personal data, your name, telephone number, address and payment details. 

Cancelling the 'free trial' can prove difficult. Especially for vulnerable elderly customers who may have purchased a health aid - like joint patches - after seeing the Easylife advert in a newspaper. Then they start receiving a regular catalogue. They may not realise they have taken a 'free trial' and may mistake the voucher pack as 'junk mail' and bin it.

That would be an expensive mistake, because unless they cancel the 'free trial' by phoning Easylife, or visiting the website (difficult for many people in their 80s and 90s) the full annual membership will be charged at £69.98. Once the charge is made getting a refund is very difficult. 

Here's what happened to my partner's mum when she got involved with Easylife. 

She is 96 years old. She's had an astonishing innings, born in 1921, she served in WWII, and still lives alone in her own home. She manages to stay abreast of world events and politics from the TV, but sadly can't always remember what she ate for lunch.  She lives 400 miles away from us, but we speak to her every day. My partner visits her every couple of weeks. She's like many vulnerable older people across Britain. 

She purchased a product from the Easylife Group Limited in June 2016. She unwittingly agreed to a 'free trial' of the Easylife Rewards Club (operated by the Rocket Marketing Group). In July 2016 I presume a debit of £69.98 appeared on her bank statement. Her vision is poor and then 95 years old she didn't notice. The same fee £69.98 will be debited in June every year until she cancels.

My partner's mum is housebound. She is unable to save money on high street shopping because she cannot go to the high street. For the same reason she cannot use vouchers to gain discounts in restaurants, visitor attractions or hotels.

In September 2016 (and I'm having to make some assumptions here, because my relative has some memory problems and cannot remember any of this) Rocket Marketing Group used her contact details to sell her a Gourmet Society Membership for £19.94.

The T&C state that your Gourmet Society Membership will be debited at the same rate as your original joining fee every year until you cancel (or if you're lucky your payment card expires and they can't process the payment). That's certainly an easylife for someone, they just keep collecting your money year after year.



Then in January 2017 they sold her a 241 Hotel Card membership also for £19.94 which was debited from her bank account. The statement entry is Easylife Rewards call 03448-809200 GB. Again the T&C state that membership is renewed every year until you cancel.




But Rocket Marketing Group weren't finished with my elderly relative yet, not by a long way. Presumably they had her marked down as a cash machine by now with a hotline to her diminishing bank account. She was certainly giving their well paid bosses an 'easylife'.

In April 2017 Easylife Group sold her a second 'free trial' to the easylife Rewards Club when she made another purchase from their catalogue. So now she has 2 memberships both running at the same time.

 When the 21 days ended in April 2017 Rocket Marketing debited £69.98 from her bank. Both the memberships to the Easylife Rewards Club, will keep auto-renewing in June and April every year, each costing £69.98 until she cancels. 

Remember she's 96 years old. Living alone, housebound, somewhat confused. Her doctor is concerned she's forgetting to take her medication and we're concerned whether she's remembering to eat. 



That same month, April 2017, Rocket Marketing Group sold her a Discover Britain Card membership for £19.98. I presume this was also by telephone. This card claims to offer discounts to various attractions throughout the UK. It shows the National Trust logo on the website - even though they do not appear to have any discounts at the National Trust (they say Kew Gardens is operated by the National Trust, it isn't)



In June 2017 my partner begun power of attorney proceedings to look after her mum's affairs. To do this she's gathered up her mum's bank statements. This is when the full horror of Rocket Marketing Group's hotline to her bank account becomes clear. A quick search online and its like pulling at a thread that usually ends at Rocket Marketing Group in Brighton. Look at the T&C on the 241 Hotel card, or the Discover Britain card and there they are lurking like a bad penny (or £19.98, or £69.98 - take your pick)

In February 2012 Rocket Marketing Group were reprimanded by the Direct Marketing Commission for 'inertia selling'. That's when you use one thing to sell another, and another. They promised to mend their ways. It doesn't look like they have.

My partner's mum is unaware she has joined any membership clubs when I ask her (of course becasue If you knew you were a member why would you join again?). So I start trying to unravel the mess, cancel all the direct debits and get her name removed from the mailing lists.

She is already signed up to the Telephone Preference Service. This free service is designed to stop companies cold calling and make it difficult for them to pass customer details to third parties. The rules are enforceable by the Information Commissioner . The ICO is thankfully very powerful and controls the way organisations use and safeguard our personal data. This is especially important to protect us from fraudsters. They can fine companies who break the law up to £500,000.

I email Andy Huggins the CEO of Rocket Marketing Group (Brighton). The Operations Manager Bill Emery responds the same day by phone. He agrees to refund all monies debited from 2016 and 2017 on the basis that my partner's mum was unable to give meaningful consent to any of the sales or use of her data. 

He apologises that they sold her 2 overlapping memberships for the Easylife Rewards Club. He cannot explain how this has happened, but agrees it is possible and could have happened to other customers. They will refund £202.69 and confirm in writing that they have cancelled all recurring direct debits for Easylife Rewards Club, the Discover Britain Card membership, the 241 Hotel Card membership and The Gourmet Society. They will remover her details from all mailing lists. 

I also email Greg Caplan CEO of Easylife Group. The Easylife Group in London has had 4 complaints about misleading ads upheld by the Adertising Standards Authorty 1 in 2013, 2 in 2014, 1 in 2015 and 15 complaints informally resolved. I don't hear anything immediately but in my complaint I referred specifically to the poor quality of a product my partner's mum purchased. Early the next morning they phoned to offer her some more. She said no, and hung up. Maybe this call was related to my complaint, maybe they were hoping she would want to buy a fresh supply - I've explained that she shouldn't talk to anyone calling themselves Easylife as they have taken a lot of money from her bank account. 

I had a very helpful online chat with the Information Commissioner (ICO). They have the authority to investigate companies that break Data Protection law. That includes passing on data, calling people who are registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and gaining meaningful specific consent 'a positive expression of choice'.

The Information Commissioner may take a different view on whether a positive expression of choice has been made by the customer during these phone calls. They may also have concerns about the legality of passing personal data of customers registered with the Telephone Preference Service to third parties (Easylife Group to Rocket to the Gourmet Society for instance) They may also have concerns about the ongoing agreement to continue membership year after year.

It's difficult to imagine how Rocket Marketing Group can be confident meaningful consent has been gained for an ongoing annual membership of the Easylife Rewards Club when the 'free trial' was sold by another company. Meaningful consent certainly wasn't obtained in the case of my partner's mum. Yes Rocket refunded immediately - but only when we noticed what was going on. Also it should have robust data management policy to ensure customers are not enrolled and charged twice for the same club. They locate customers by postcode and name so this should be a no brainer.

The Direct Marketing Commission also has 5 key principles by which members should operate to treat customers honestly, fairly, openly and with transparency to protect the good image of the direct marketing industry. They can uphold complaints, and refer wrong-doers to the regulatory authorities but they cannot issue fines. Rocket Marketing Group is not a member. 

If you, or someone you care about has been caught out by Easylife Rewards Club or any of the membership clubs operated by Rocket Marketing Group (Brighton)

  • Phone Easylife Rewards Club customer service line 03448 809 200 and explain what has happened. Ask them what records they have for you, and all the items they have ever sold you. If you are unhappy with this ask for a refund, ask them to stop all direct debits and remove your details from their data base.
  • If you remain unhappy with the response ask for a senior manager to phone you back. They will agree to this.
  • If your complaint is about another club or loyalty scheme operated or sold by Rocket Marketing Group complain to CEO andy.huggins@rocketmarketinggroup.com
Easylife Group Limited (London) operate the catalogue sales for goods. They have a satisfaction guarantee on their website. If you have a problem with the goods they have sold or wish them to remove your data from their lists:

  • Phone them on 0303 031 0777 and explain what has happened. 
  • If you want to ensure they do not pass your data to other companies ask them to remove your details from third party marketing consent.
  • If your are offered a 'free trial' to any membership club ensure you understand all the details of the agreement and how to cancel it. If you have any doubts - no matter how tempted you are - let the offer pass. 
After you've taken the above steps if you remain unhappy you can complain to:

Update March 2018

Since I wrote this article in June 2017 it has attracted a very large number of google search hits. Reviews on other online consumer sites also suggest that there are plenty of people who discover they, or an elderly relative, have become a member of an 'easylife' club - the latest is the Easylife Motor Club. It appears from some reviews to have sold memberships to people who have never even held a driving licence. 

In February 2018 Karen Ford, the Head of Compliance at Easylife left a comment below and I exchanged some emails with her about my relative's story outlined above. Karen apologised and said it should never have happened, and wouldn't happen today with the new compliance systems they have in place. She also confirms that Rocket Marketing Group do sell memberships on behalf of Easylife Group.

If you are having problems with Easylife Group or Rocket Marketing Group, Easylife  Rewards Club, 241 Hotel Club, Gourmet Society, Visit Britain or Easylife Motor Club membership and you need help you can email:

Karen@easylifegroup.com 

Please also post a comment below if your complaint is not swiftly resolved to your satisfaction.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rocket Marketing have been expelled from DMA due to ongoing compliance failure

Anonymous said...

The

Anonymous said...

The call Centre is also not in the UK.It is in Cyprus Larnaca. The staff are forced to offer the rewards scam or lose their jobs. The Company is run in Cyprus by first choice group.The easy life car motoring group is also the same scam. They pray on the elderly.

Anonymous said...

I purchased items on line from easylife and never had a phone call from anyone to ask me if I wished to become a member of the 'easyliferewards ' but my details were given any way by 'easlife' to them without my knowledge or permission.
Easliferewards took £2.99 and £84.94 from my credit card and after a lot of correspondence back and forth and threatening them that I would take the matter further, they are going to give me a credit.
I will just wait and see if they keep their promise and I will never order from
'easylife' again.It is such a shame because the main customers are either elderly or disabled and find items that would help them.

Unknown said...

I worked there for 7 years. It is all a big von in my opinion. It is also likely that when anyone gets a call to offer the membership, it is actually outbound agents from Rocket calling them under the guise of the company....Easylife, Ideal World. All I would say is that if you can't get your money back, order as much as you can which will cost Rocket and not you....like the free flight up to £100.....just don't go! Tea for 2, feery crossing etc....they will soon go bust! If you want more info then contact me....I can spill the beans!

TheChiefExecutive said...

Unknown - Thank you for your contribution about your experience with Easylife / Rocket.

So you seem to suggets that the discount schemes they run - Gourmet Society, 241 Hotel Card etc cost them money if card holders take up any of the benefits? Please do explain further!

It is regrettable that Rocket and Easylife appear immune to all meaningful regulation and yet their activities border on fraud.

Former Rocket Employee said...

No the 241 stuff and Gourmet Society are shipped in at bulk and sent out 21 days after a letter informing you they will be charged is sent. The stuff that costs them are the free euro trip (book it and dont go!) The tea for 2, ferry trip etc. If all the people who had the club booked these they would go bust....quickly....they know it but rely on the fact that people dont check

Former Rocket Employee said...

....any post that looks like junk mail or their bank account statements. They have often had Trading Standards sniffing around but fob them off comparing the amount of tranactions they make against complaints.

Karen said...

Anwen

I am the Head of Compliance at Easylife and am concerned to read this thread, which has just been brought to my attention. We work very closely with trading standards to ensure we do not breach consumer laws so if you wish to contact me regarding your concerns, please email me on karen@easylifegroup.com

Anonymous said...

That old speel "work closely with trading standards"! No you don't I know for a fact the "truth" has been twisted in the past to keep them happy. Do you send envelopes to each customer?? Hmmm? Only when they ask....

HelenMatata said...

Thank you for this. I have just emailed Karen with my complaint. I'm really shocked that a company can be allowed to operate in this way. I too had no SAE, made no agreement, was not told I was joining a scheme (they were only sending the stuff for me to look at and I could keep a 10 pound shopping voucher whether or not I joined the scheme), and have had my credit card charged. Sainsbury's bank are being helpful and I have written to BBC Watchdog. I returned the Easylife information immediately - the same day.

Anonymous said...

My elderly father has just been charged £69.95 by easylife. He had a phone call offering him a reward scheme etc etc He said "NO THANK YOU". Anyway the company still insisted on sending out the information. My father phoned back the following day and said he wasn't interested. He was told by a member of staff that he needed to sign the papers and return them so they knew he wasn't joining/interested. He did this immediately and got proof of postage. From the first phone call to my father returning the paperwork was less than a week yet they have still made this charge. We have gone through the bank and they are hopefully sorting the refund and the fraud team are involved. My fathers bank card has also been changed and Easylife are blocked any access to his account.
Picking on the elderly and vulnerable. I hope your proud of your company

TheChiefExecutive said...

Re Anon (25 April) This is terrible. Please do email Karen Ford at Easylife (Head of Compliance) she says this shouldn't happen. Let us all know what she says. Do ask her to compensate your elderly father for his trip to the post office and all your phone calls to the bank. You should also contact your local Trading Standards if possible and alert them to the considerable inconvenience your father and you have faced.

Anonymous said...

My 80 year old father has had £69.95 taken out of his account for Easylife Supercard.
I cancelled the card within the 14 day trial. The money was taken before the 14 day trial finished.
Easylife are not following their own terms and conditions. Everytime I phone up, i get the same reply someone to phone you back.

Today I have looked at my fathers bank account to find £6.95 has been taken out of his account we don't even know what this is for. All it said on statement is PERX.

I think this company is taking advance of the old.

I will now have to reorder a new bankcard for my father to stop them taking anymore money.

TheChiefExecutive said...

Anon 29 April - This is the third comment about Easylife and their membership clubs being sold to vulnerable customers this week. I would email Karen@easylifegroup.com (Karen Ford is head of compliance) and demand that she refund your costs for the mis-sale. Your reasonable costs will telephone calls, postage and the inconvenience of ordering a new bank card. If she refuses I would report them to Trading Standards.

Anonymous said...

I have now found out what PERX is. It is a monthly magazine giving leisure discounts. The privilege of having this magazine is £6.95 a month. Again this is something my father didn't ask for. Easylife have taken the money without my fathers agreement. The company keep on breaking their own terms and conditions. How many other people have had this problem? I think it needs to go further now.

This is now stressing out my 80 year old father and myself.

I have also found out we pay for the privilege of phoning Easylife as it a 0844 number.

I'm asking for compensation now.

TheChiefExecutive said...

Easylife has a local cost telephone number (included in mobile calling plans) 0303 031 0777.

This is listed on their website under the tab ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ and is answered by their customer care team. Do not complain via their 0844 number which as you correctly point out is a premium rate number.

Anonymous said...

I also had the same issue with finding £69.95 on my elderly fathers account and being very concerned. I contacted Karen using the information provided in this thread and she responded straight away, she also sorted out the refund and cancelled all further communication from EasyLife. She was very helpful, so if you are having any issues I would urge you to contact Karen.

Jo Adams said...

And here we are in May 2018 and still they continue to scam people out of money. They agreed to refund my 90 yr old mother the £69.98 as I on her behalf cancelled the before the 'trial period' -They had already processed the amount. They never refunded and now I am again in an email battle to these charlatans to give her back her money. I have also told them they are to STOP all transactions with her as she is not mentally competent to do anything over the phone - she is too old and has no idea what she is agreeing to - something they know and deliberately continue to target elderly people.
How can I stop them??

Jo Adams said...

Look at all the complaints here
https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5561255 and here
https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/www.shopgoodideas.com

Karen said...

Right To Reply

Thank you to those of you who have been in touch with me directly regarding the concerns you have about Easylife.

Many of our customers are older adults and because of that we are very careful not to breach their consumer or data protection rights. I understand that when you first learn we have been marketing products/services to one of your relatives and you read the reviews that have been written that you automatically believe we are systematically scamming your loved ones but we are not. We have a very clear Vulnerable Customer Policy, strict training and QA procedures, so straying from our rules is not an option.

We do work closely with trading standards in Camden, with regular dialogue taking place between us and them. They have also reviewed our scripts, paperwork, policies and procedures so I hope you will feel some reassurance that we are doing all we can to support our customers.

So why then do we still get complaints? Despite our policies and procedures, some older adults do not present as vulnerable so we have been unable to detect memory or other cognitive issues when we have been in contact with them, however, as soon as we are put on notice that a customer is at risk, we take immediate action to prevent further transactions taking place and are proactive in addressing concerns raised.

Why do we not stop selling to older adults? We have a very large customer base and in 99.99% of cases, our customers are delighted with our offerings which is why we keep in contact with them. If what we offered was substandard in anyway we would not get so many repeat orders and if we were acting outside of the law, I can assure you that trading standards would intervene without hesitation.

If you come across this post and have concerns that you wish to raise about your relative, or indeed your own interactions with our company, I do welcome you to make direct contact with me: karen@easylifegroup.com

Anonymous said...

Exactly the same has happened to my 85 year old mother. Regular membership payments are being taken out of her bank account that she didn't realise was happening and is unaware as to what she receives for being a "member". I only discovered this was going on when I was appointed Power of Attorney and now receive her bank statements. I am now in correspondence with Karen Ford, Head of Compliance and Data Protection Officer at Easylife Rewards Club to get the memberships stopped.

Anonymous said...

Since posting my comment Karen Ford has now contacted me to confirm that the charges for the last 12 months will be refunded and the memberships cancelled. She has dealt with this matter quickly and if you have complaints I suggest you contact her.

Jo Adams said...

I too have been in touch with Karen and she is doing her best to investigate.

Anonymous said...

I have been in touch with Karen. She said my fathers payment for £69.95 for Easylife Supercard and £6.95 for PERX magazine will be refunded. (Not arrived in the bank yet)!

I have asked her for compensation. She emailed me back and said that she has listened to my fathers coversation with seller and we are not entitled to any compensation as he agreed to have a look.

I said because we cancelled the magazine and card within the cooling off period no money should have been taken. I would not have had the expense of making premium rate phone calls to them and take my father (who is 80) on a 30 mile round trip to get him a new bank card.

If you read the terms and conditions for Easylife Supercard its says

Cooling off period - You have a 14 day cooling off period in which you can use the product prior to annual payment. You may cancel membership at any time and for no reason by contacting us to cancel during cooling off period. THE ONLY PAYMENT PROCESSED DURING THIS TIME IS £2.99 to cover the cost of post and packaging for your welcome letter.

So why are they taking money for the full amount in the cooling off period. Surely the company are breaking their own Terms and Conditions?

I think I'm entitled to compensation for this.

Will be taking this matter further.

Meledna said...

I am also in the middle of a battle to get a refund for the motor card which I am supposed to have agreed to in a phone call which I am disputing ever took place I emailed Karen then a few days later had a phone call to say I would be refunded the £59.99 they had taken from my credit card and the refund would take 7 to 10 days. It has now been over 2 weeks and I have not been refunded.I sent Karen another email and had an auto response to say she has left the company and to contact easylife .No idea what is going on but I smell a rat. I will be contacting trading standards and the financial ombudsman and I WONT give up however long it takes

Anonymous said...

I am also in dispute with them for my in-laws - had a letter from them that looks like something anyone could write, no company information, not even signed! - this company is disgusting they way they prey on people!

Anonymous said...

I strongly recommend you don’t trust Karen Ford. If you read the follow links it will become clear what sort of people you are dealing with. BEWARE

https://www.miltonkeynes.co.uk/news/did-council-high-flyer-gloat-about-scumbags-1-5842967

https://www.miltonkeynes.co.uk/news/milton-keynes-council-chief-steps-down-following-facebook-probe-1-5971059

https://www.miltonkeynes.co.uk/news/council-scumbag-uproar-chief-gets-new-business-post-1-6363713


Anonymous said...

I emailed easylife & asked about Karen Ford & was informed that she does not work for them anymore!!!!

In the light of what I have read, I am not really surprised

Anonymous said...

I have reason to believe Karen is still working for Easylife. Just be warned she cannot be trusted!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I worked for Easylife fot about a month.. Google Greg Caplan and cgeck his facebook account. To start with he is pro israel with regards to treatment if palestinians. Though thats not relevant it tells u something.
I quit after a month as the company sells crap products.. they use a crap company to deliver and consistently lie to customers and staff and treat everyone equally, with contempt.
I whistleblew to Trading Standards re thr rocket nonsense which is a total scam and the fact that they hold credit card details with all the numbers and with no security.. trading standarss clearly dont care so thats the wider issue

Anonymous said...

Especially when Karen Ford claims to be a former trading standards officer. If you read the links above you’ll understand that she is clearly a disturbed person, with her links to the trading standards industry, my guess is shes been employed to keep trading standards away.

My advise would be to stay well clear of this company

Anonymous said...

A few weeks after buying items on-line from Easylife I received a phone
call asking if I wanted a £10 petrol voucher. The caller had a strong
accent and I could only understand about 10% of what she was saying.
After many embarrassing requests to repeat sentences I asked if the
information could be sent in writing by post or e-mail.

I received nothing but later discovered, from bank accounts, that
Easylife had made two withdrawals from my account using the card details
provided for the earlier purchase. The first for £1.99 and second for £59.

These sums have now been repaid but, despite numerous requests, I have
never received invoices explaining what was, allegedly, bought.

Anonymous said...

I used to work for easylifegroup for over a year, their call centre is based in Cyprus. Unfortunately the scam was still going on while I was there. I used to work in customer services and everyday I would receive phonecalls from customers complaining that they were debited for £59.99 or £69.99 when they had not agreed to or received any form of documentation whatsoever. I was aick to the back teeth at what was going on.
This is nothing more than a big scam to take money from the elderly and vulnerable hoping they won't ask for their money back. Many customers have asked for their details to be removed from the system because they have had enough of EasyLife. The company is losing loyal customers at an extraordinary rate, word is spreading fast through social media at what an awful company this is to deal with.
It sewms that the ombudsman and trading standards are getting involved and it's a matter of time before the company will be brought to it's knees.
Anyone reading this should keep away from the company, it's more hassle than it's worth.