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Classmates Memory Lane Web Site Inspires Memories of Customers Hate

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

Maybe they shouldn't have called it Memory Lane. For those with a memory, they may recall having their bank account drained, month after month, by the former Classmates website. Yes, good ol' Memory Lane IS -- complete with auto-renewal and what the web site refers to as its "binding agreement".
Funny, didn't say anything about, literally, being (just look at the web address where you're forwarded) -- but maybe the company didn't want memories of hate inspired from former customers who have plastered its name all over the internet.
Users of Classmates seemed to share at least one common complaint -- the idea that customers thought they were purchasing a one-time fee for accessing information on the website, then being billed continuously by the company. For those customers having used a credit card for the transaction, the process was slightly easier to sort out -- and potentially less expensive, if caught within a 60-day timeframe. But for Classmates users who had used a debit card, the issue came down to fighting it out with the bank. led Users of Classmates seemed to share at least one common complaint -- the idea that users thought they were purchasing a one-time fee for accessing information on the website, then being billed continuously by the company. For users who had used a credit card for the transaction, the process was slightly easier to sort out -- and potentially less expensive, if caught within a 60-day timeframe. But for Classmates users who had used a debit card, the issue came down to fighting it out with the bank. led purchasing customers through pages, one of which indicated what clearly appeared to be a one-time charge option. Further down on the page, and not easily seen, was what appeared to be a conflicting statement -- and one users never saw, until after their credit or debit card had already been charged for multiple months by the company. The standard response from the company was that users had agreed to an auto-renewal membership. Infuriated customers argued that they had never agreed to auto-renewal, but fine print text led to irate people who thought they'd agreed to only a one-time charge.
In fact it was just a year ago that Classmates settled a class action lawsuit against the company. The web site was probably fortunate to have narrowly escaped a class action suit about recurring charges. The settled, Seattle, Washington claim included allegations that Classmates was sending "phantom friend e-mails" to users.
The Class Action Settlement agreement provided a fund of up to $9.5 million dollars to consumers -- to resolve the claim against Classmates that the company was sending emails that made people believe old friends from high school were trying to connect with them. Interestingly, those "phantom friends" could've easily been the reason that so many people signed up with Classmates in the first place, or ever agreed to be billed a one-time fee by the company. Once the web site had credit or debit card information in its cache, many users argued that they'd been charged repeatedly and locked into a rolling auto-renewal membership with the site -- rather than the one-time charge they believed had been authorized.
It was estimated a year ago that more than 3 million members in the U.S. may have been eligible for a cash payment or credit under the class action settlement if users had used the site during a three-year span between January 1, 2007 and April 19, 2010, and who paid for a Gold Membership subscription to and never received a refund as a result of:
Upgrading to a Gold Membership through the process on of seeking to see who visited their Guestbook; or
Upgrading to a Gold Membership after clicking on a link to in a Guestbook email, or Connections email that included a Guestbook subject line, and upgrading to a Gold Membership within the same session activated by clicking on that link or within the same day of clicking on that link; or
Upgrading to a Gold Membership within the same day of receiving a Guestbook email or Connections email that included a Guestbook subject line.
Even after the class action lawsuit worth millions, Classmates complaints still abound that the company got off easy.
So now it seems Classmates is back in the form of Memory Lane -- possibly just when many had instead been hoping for a sooner-than-later demise. Many online users may have even assumed the company was already gone, since it's not only been off-the-radar but at depths far below sea level. After making many customers irate, the web site that was once temporarily on top was usurped by those like My Space, Facebook and Twitter -- as people turned to the new phenomenon of social networking, rather than a simple "introduction." To clarify, somehow, Classmates is listed as a social networking site -- though the social part may be more than a bit unclear to a majority of its users. At least those that don't already hate the company.
Memory Lane is broadcasting itself all over the place, with expensive tv ads running during primetime hours and even sports games.
Memory Lane ads tell its potential users to "step back in time" -- maybe not the wisest words for former Classmates users who still resent or even hate the company. Despite its "about us" link, a trip to Memory Lane online will yield multiple Classmates ads or sign-in options -- but, oddly, the section includes only the things you can do on the site. Like be nostalgic with photos. Strange, there's no clear reference to the Classmates/Memory Lane connection.
For customers who don't already hate Classmates -- or are willing to take the ride -- "over 100 million pieces of nostalgic content are apparently at the ready." That is, if you're ready to take that chance with credit card or debit information again. The "nostalgic" site says its got a database of over 50 million people at the ready -- so that just cut its content roughly in half, to school photos. Thrilling. And, of course, everyone will be so very happy to have high school photos at the ready, that can paid for by anyone. In an age where identity theft is already such a problem, the first thing consumers want is an easy to access database of photos at the ready -- to make impersonation as simple as pie. It's the type of information that the public certainly looks forward to flying all over the internet. It all sounds about like another lawsuit just waiting to happen.
You can't use Memory Lane without an "all access pass" -- and you can't get an "all access pass" without giving up all your information. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?
For those who do have faith in Classmates, the Memory Lane setup doesn't necessarily inspire the utmost in trust: the Memory Lane site won't tell you how much the "all access pass" costs unless a user fills out the form -- and clicks to agree to the Terms. Those Memory Lane Terms, by the way, seem to go directly to the web address of -- strange, since despite the Memory Lane logo plastered at top, the Terms page forwards to a name including Classmates. Why might that be? 
Because Memory Lane IS Classmates. In fact, if you type in the web address of it immediately forwards to -- yes -- It seems deception doesn't fall by the wayside.
Better read the Memory Lane Terms carefully -- the company makes clear that, this time, you're "entering into a binding agreement". Scroll all the way to the bottom of the Terms and you'll find fun inclusions, like: "We may allow other companies to offer you products and services, including offers through our Website or via email." Expect to be pounded.
Oddly, you'll have to skip to the very end of the Memory Lane Terms -- to a section entitled ADDITIONAL TERMS - ALL ACCESS PASS AND OTHER PAID SERVICES -- in order to actually find out about the pass that you're buying. There you'll find some familiar stuff, like the interesting policy that says the only way to terminate paid services with Memory Lane/Classmates is to contact the company by email. Strange how those go missing so often -- and how customers can only contact the company directly from its website, not from their email account -- for customer proof that the email request for termination was actually sent.
Then comes a Terms section entitled "Refunds," which sounds innocent enough -- and probably not the section where the standard customer would expect to find the following, magically pertaining to that familiar auto-renewal: "Refund Policy. All fees relating to Paid Services, including the initial fees and any subsequent automatic renewal fees (as further described below) for an All Access Pass, are non-refundable." That seems to cover it: you're not getting a dime back.
But the fantastic Auto-Renewal section is yet to come -- and here it is:
"Automatic Renewal Program. Upon your acceptance of an offer for the purchase of an All Access Pass or any other subscription-based Paid Services , you will be enrolled in Memory Lane's automatic renewal program to help ensure that there is no interruption of your paid member privileges. Under this program, you authorize Memory Lane to automatically renew your subscription at the end of the term of the subscription you purchased, and each subsequent term, for the same term length of the subscription you initially purchased (unless otherwise stated in the offer you accepted). Unless you take the necessary steps to remove yourself from Memory Lane's automatic renewal program, at the time of each such renewal you authorize Memory Lane to charge your credit card (or other payment method) at the then-current, non-promotional price for the renewal of your subscription-based Paid Services. If you no longer want to be enrolled in Memory Lane's automatic renewal program, you can change your renewal status at any time by logging onto the “Account” portion of the Website, clicking on "Account & Billing", and changing your renewal option from "automatic" to "manual". Please note that changing your renewal option in this way will only stop future automatic renewals of your subscription and will not impact any automatic renewals that occurred prior to the date of your status change."
Thanks, Classmates -- here we go again.

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