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Santa Monica Joins in Settlement with Wine Home Delivery Companies

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

February 25, 2020 -- Santa Monica -- along with prosecutors from four California counties -- reached a settlement with two wine home delivery companies that illegally renewed membership subscriptions automatically.

The violations involved wines sold by Direct Wines, a wine club marketing company, and Wine Awesomeness, a wine retailer, that offered subscriptions to wine bottle home deliveries, the Los Angeles District Attorney said Tuesday.

Under the terms of the settlement, Delaware-based Direct Wines and Wine Awesomeness of South Carolina agreed to pay $365,000 and change their sales practices.

"In California, businesses must clearly and conspicuously disclose all automatic renewal charges and terms and get affirmative consent of those recurring charges from consumers," LA County prosecutors said in a statement.

The settlement with Wine Awesomeness was approved on February 14 by LA Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis. Four days Judge Steven J. Kleifield approved the settlement with Direct Wines.

Under the settlement, the companies must "clearly and conspicuously" disclose their automatic-renewal terms and charge "only when a consumer's consent has been obtained," prosecutors said.

The companies also must provide confirmation of the transaction after the contract is made and provide an "easy-to-use mechanism for cancellation."

Consumers who accept an automatic renew or continuous service can terminate the contract online "effective upon request," according to prosecutors.

"The defendants did not admit wrongdoing in the stipulated judgments but worked cooperatively with prosecutors to amend their business practices to ensure compliance with the state's automatic renewal laws," prosecutors said.

The violations involving Direct Wines occurred between September 1, 2013, and September 27, 2017. Violations involving Wine Awesomeness occurred between August 7, 2017, and June 20, 2018.

The San Diego, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz county district attorney's offices joined the LA County District Attorney's office and the Santa Monica City Attorney's office in the lawsuit.

The five offices make up the California Automatic Renewal Task Force (CART) formed by the LA District Attorney in 2015.

"The goal of CART is to address the automatic renewal issues that have troubled many consumers when they purchase goods and services online," prosecutors said.

"CART finds that some businesses do not properly disclose to their customers that their subscriptions would be automatically renewed until canceled by the customers.

"Such deficient disclosure is not limited to a particular industry," prosecutors said.

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