Lawmaker Turns Up Heat on Shady Web Ploys takes a look at new efforts by Sen. John Rockefeller to clamp down on what he’s described as e-tailers’ online marketing partnerships that betray their users’ trust. But the companies involved have a far different take on their activities.

A prominent Senate Democrat has stepped up his inquiry into the dubious practices of online commerce, asking for information from credit card companies about their role in Web marketing schemes that appeared to result in consumers getting billed for unauthorized charges.

John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) on Thursday sent letters to Visa, MasterCard and American Express as part of his committee’s ongoing probe into online membership clubs that seek to enroll online consumers after they have made a purchase on the Internet.

“There are more than 4 million American consumers whose credit cards are being charged by mysterious membership clubs after shopping online, and most of these 4 million consumers don’t even know it’s happening,” he said in a statement.

Rockefeller’s committee has been looking into the practices of so-called post-transaction marketers for months, and recently held a hearing on the issue, inviting academic researchers and consumers to testify. An aide said that he is planning another hearing that will invite testimony from some of the marketing and e-commerce firms in question.

The practice Rockefeller is going after involves the pop-up windows that appear on some e-commerce sites after a customer has completed a transaction. The pop-ups offer a coupon or some other incentive, but once a user clicks through, he can be automatically enrolled in a club that automatically bills his credit card for a monthly membership fee.

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