Webloyalty / Shopper Discounts right to reply; image thanks to altemark via FlickrEarlier this week on this blog Graham Charlton discussed whether or not retailers should promote third party shopper discount schemes at the end of the checkout process. 

The way this usually works is that you buy something, and after having your order confirmed are invited to accept a ‘£10 off your next purchase’ or similar. The schemes are operated not by the retailers, but by a partner.

Graham bought some train tickets via TheTrainline.com and stumbled across one of these offers at the end of the checkout. He found it confusing, and he’s not alone… many consumers have also complained (‘I was duped’, ‘I’m another victim’, etc).

Naturally the discount scheme operator, Webloyalty, is not thrilled with our coverage, and marketing director Gill Hynes has written in to complain. 

For the purposes of transparency here is Webloyalty's response in full, replete with clarifications on their sign-up procedure and offer...

I am writing in response to your article published today on the Econsultancy website regarding Webloyalty and one of our clients: thetrainline.com. 

The article you published contains inaccurate information regarding the process by which thetrainline.com customers join the Shopper Discounts & Rewards programme and the information presented on our offer pages to these customers.  I have addressed these inaccuracies below, and therefore request that you either remove this article or publish a corrected version. 

To support this letter I have attached the thetrainline.com offer page (thetrainline.com_offer_page) that you would have seen when you clicked through from the banner on the thetrainline.com’s confirmation page.  I have also attached an example of a non-client specific offer page (example_offer_page) which illustrates very clearly the following:

1. The customer is required to provide credit or debit card details to Shopper Discounts & Rewards. The offer page contains clear, conspicuous and repeated disclosures that notify consumers that they are joining a subscription programme. 

2. The consumer takes 8 affirmative steps to join one of our programmes and we continue to communicate with them about the programme benefits after enroling.

Correction: Customers are required to enter payment details to enrol in Shopper Discounts & Rewards. 

I would specifically like to draw your attention to the fact that the screen grab of thetrainline.com offer page you included in your article does not show steps 1 & 2 of the enrolment process (you have only shown step 3). Had you shown a full screen grab of thetrainline.com offer page it would have been clear to your readers that customers are required to enter their name, address, email (and verify the email address), and enter full credit or debit card details. They are then required to create and verify a password, and click a ‘Yes’ button to confirm they wish to join the programme.  

Correction: The offer page contains clear, conspicuous and repeated disclosures that notify consumers that they are joining a subscription programme.

The terms and conditions of the programme and in particular that the programme will cost the member £10 a month after the initial free trial period is stated in no less than 6 places on the offer page. (See attached example_offer_page on which the price point notification is highlighted) Additionally, the terms of the offer appear in a coloured box, near where the consumer enters his or her personal information in order to join the programme. 

In addition to the offer page, I have also attached for your information the acknowledgement page (thetrainline.com_acknowledgement_page) the customer sees immediately on clicking the ‘Yes’ button, which confirms they have successfully joined the programme, and it also provides information on how to access and make use of the Shopper Discounts & Rewards benefits.  In addition, the acknowledgement page reminds members of the amount they will be billed for after the free trial period and provides the credit or debit card type and last 4 digits of the credit or debit card that will be used for billing.  

Correction: The consumer takes a series of 8 affirmative steps to join one of our programmes and we continue to communicate with them about the programme benefits after enroling.

Webloyalty puts the most significant details of its offers in a prominent location – in the  first two  paragraphs and immediately next to the acceptance (‘Yes’) button – and repeats them in multiple other locations on the offer page. Further, Webloyalty continues to communicate the offer terms to consumers after the enrolment process and before they incur billing.

We send the member 7 emails in the first 30 days of their membership.

1. A welcome email (sent immediately upon enrolment) that highlights programme benefits and provides full offer and billing details. If this first email bounces, we send an offline letter to the member. If the offline letter is returned to us, we cancel the membership. 

2. Another welcome email is also sent that day, which confirms the member has joined and provides a reminder that they are eligible to claim their cash back voucher.

3. Day 1 of membership: an email is sent reminding the member of his or her password.

4. Day 7: An email reminding the member of the benefits of the programme is sent.

5. Day 13: An email reminding the member about their cash back voucher is sent.

6. Day 16: An email reminding the member that the trial period is about to expire and also that his or her credit or debit card will be charged. This email also contains contact information and details of how to cancel should the member wish to. If this email bounces, we send an offline letter to the member. If the offline letter is returned to us, we cancel the membership.

7. Day 30: An email reminding the member of the benefits of the programme is sent.

Regular emails are sent thereafter for as long as the member remains a member.

I would be more than happy to forward you examples of these all of these emails.

We, at Webloyalty, are committed to responsible practices that set an industry standard in client services and marketing. We make every effort to be straightforward with our offers, allowing consumers to make educated choices regarding their decision to join the Shopper Discounts & Rewards membership programme. 

Webloyalty understands that some consumers, regardless of the abundance of clear and conspicuous disclosures, may still complain that they were unaware (or perhaps subsequently forgot) that they had enroled in a membership programme.  To that end, Webloyalty publicises its cancellation policy including, among other places, on its enrolment page and in communications with consumers. 

The information we have provided to you in this letter and the attachments hereto establish that any suggestion contrary to the facts that consumers are required to provide credit and debit card details upon enroling in a Webloyalty programme; that our offer page is clear in its disclosures and that the consumer take a series of affirmative steps to join one of our programmes would be false. We therefore request that you remove or amend your article of 5 February. 

If you have further questions about the materials or want more information about any of these matters, we are happy to discuss this with you in further detail.  We are prepared to spend whatever time is necessary to provide you with accurate information to ensure the article you present is accurate and truthful.



Accordingly we have removed a sentence which suggested that Webloyalty hadn't improved the communication of its offer to customers in the past two years, when - based on the above - it is clear that Webloyalty is adhering to a number of industry best practices.

But the article wasn't really about Webloyalty's sign-up procedure. It was about shopper discount schemes more broadly, and where and how they are promoted by retailers.

We simply asked a question: ‘Should e-commerce sites be offering rewards schemes?’

On the basis of anecdotal evidence, notably the hundreds of consumers who have felt misled by these schemes, is might be ill-considered to bastardise your checkout with these sorts of partner offers. 

Then again presumably the numbers add up. The likes of TheTrainline and Interflora must generate enough revenue from Webloyalty to offset the lack of repeat business from unhappy customers, even if those customers are at fault for not reading the terms and conditions in full.

But just as we know that customers skim read T&Cs (when did you last read them, in full?), we also know that they will click on links in the checkout labelled 'Continue'. It's very persuasive. We believe that the checkout is sacrosanct and our own best practice guidelines have yet to recommend this sort of thing

We're living in an age where customer experience and word of mouth is paramount, and it seems to me that this is dangerous game to play. The internet is an echo chamber, and bad noise can travel a long way.

I’d be keen to hear from e-commerce managers that have positive or negative views about these kinds of discount schemes.

Chris Lake

Published 6 February, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (12)

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Lebron "P-Hack" James

This is a non-story. Consumers need to read the fine print. What's next -- *hundreds* of idiot consumers complain about weird fee schedules and interest on credit cards that wasn't explained to them like they were a 2 year old? From everything I've heard, Webloyalty is more than glad to refund any money and explain where the charges originated from. If the consumer is an idiot and just clicks whatever pops up, maybe they should stick to traditional retail outlets.

This is far, far, far from the worst thing that can "happen to you" on the internet. If these "schemes" were not profitable for the retailer, they wouldn't exist, so I'm sure you won't be hearing anything negative from retailers big enough to earn a relative profit from this type of thing.

You should be writing about the half inch of snow that shut down London. Something, anything other than this would be a more interesting story. You sound like an internet troll looking for a fight -- I feel stupid just giving you this many words in a comment.

over 9 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Hi 'Lebron',

If I sound like a troll then you sound like you have an agenda.

Nobody said this was the worst thing in world and yes, people are lazy and stupid. 

Adding a button marked 'Continue' as part of a multi-page checkout process normally means that you have to press it to complete the journey. Hence the problems.

1. FACT: Some stupid consumers don't read the fine print. 

2. FACT: As a result some stupid consumers feel duped by signing up to these schemes. Yes, it's their own fault.

3. FACT: Nevertheless these stupid consumers then blame the retailers, rather than the discount scheme operator.

4. FACT: Stupid consumers then bitch about the retailers / discount schemes online.

5. FACT: Stupid retailers therefore lose stupid customers, and prospective customers.

So who is more stupid? The customer or the retailer?

over 9 years ago


Nupur Manchanda, Director at Practicology

In response to your first reader comment: Dismissing your consumers as idiots is dangerous, bad practice, bad marketing and so ridiculous it's laughable. Good design and communication caters for all.We can ALWAYS do better.

I have to agree with the author, the 'Continue' button on thetrainline screengrab is exceptionally misleading. It plays on the existing conventions of checkout design, and therefore on customer expectation. 'Continue' in a checkout means 'continue to the next page of the checkout' and not 'sell me more stuff when I've paid up and am trying leave your store.'

 If consumers don't read the Ts and Cs then they ('they' being the Ts and Cs) probably fall foul of the common issues of being poorly written and poorly displayed. But it's also a sign of trust. If you are a well trafficked, well known brand then consumers are more inclined to trust you and also your unread small print. It's this potential brand damage that trainline has surely got to take into account when selecting partners, as they WILL get the blame.

over 9 years ago


Lebron "P-Hack" James

Hi Chris,

You are correct on most points, but the number shows up next to the charge on a credit card statement (at least according to someone I know that did this without reading the fine print) and he reached Webloyalty customer service. However, I'd imagine some people do find the retailer and the retailer may lose business. The retailers seem to accept the loss in favor of the added revenue stream -- hard to blame them if the math adds up.

I still think the customer is more stupid -- the retailer is making a business decision while the customer just clicks random things :)

I think the real target here should be companies like Simpel Internet (NL) with it's TopConverting software that they pay botnet owners and hackers a certain amount of money per install and per ad served. People opting into a service, regardless of how useful it is perceived to be, is still a legitimate business.

Now, would I like to see popups and these types of advertisements at check out? Not really, but there is an actual market for it *because* of retailers looking for alternate revenue streams.

BTW - my name obviously isn't Lebron -- and my only agenda is to mock you redcoats :) I suppose this is a good topic for conversation, my only point is to not single out the only seemingly legitimate player I've heard of in the market.

over 9 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Hey Lebron,

Redcoats = LMAO!

We're genuinely not trying to single out any company and it's a shame that Webloyalty happened to be the provider for TheTrainline - as I mentioned it does seem to be adhering to best practice.

The issue for us is the process of how and where these operators acquire customers via partners like TheTrainline. And it's only because this takes place at 'the end' of the checkout journey, that it provides confusion for consumers.

If partners sent out emails saying 'would you like to join this shopping discount scheme' then there wouldn't be any issues. But it wouldn't convert so well, and not everybody opts in to receive emails (and of those that do, many won't open or respond to them). 

If consumers read T&Cs properly, and maybe if the labelling of buttons in the checkout process was less confusing, then everything would be ok. As is, there is mass bitching about retailers and shopping scheme operators (what proportion of people complain or demand refunds I don't know, so maybe the problem is overstated).

I'm sure there's a happy medium to be found here... all we're interested in is best practice and how to keep customers happy (to encourage repeat business and referrals). Anything that has a positive or negative effect on that gets on our radar, hence the article...


over 9 years ago



I am one of the stupid ones who fell for this. It's easily done. If this sort of thing were to proliferate on the Internet, trust in retail websites will suffer.

I agree that Webloyalty are good about refunding money and publish a freephone number with the credit card charges.

However, in my view an unscrupulous organisation now has my details, and I feel that my credit card is compromised so I will be cancelling it.

The notion that they can supply enough tips to warrant the £10 per month charge is fanciful at best. I believe all their emails were intercepted by my spam filter.

In my view there's nothing good about this sort of scheme at all.

I intend to write to Trading Standards.

about 9 years ago


Owen Pay

I am also one of Lebron's "stupid" consumers who inadvertantly signed up to this Webloyalty scheme. I was on the EBookers Web-site which included an offered discount checkbox. I checked the checkbox (apparently, as I don't remember doing it) and was prompted to enter my e-mail address twice; that was all. Because of these actions EBookers passed my Credit Card details on to Webloyalty.

I have been an enthusiastic user of the Web for making purchases; as I am time poor and have to travel a lot. I am now chastened and have obtained a Credit card just for Web purchases with a £1000 Credit limit. I do not use EBookers any more and regularly check for other Suppliers who use Webloyalty and they are added to my blacklist, as I feel that these companies do not have any respect for their customers. I use the web less often for making purchases.

This experience has actually woken me up, and maybe I should be grateful to Webloyalty for changing my habits. My experience does tend to imply that the name Webloyalty is an oxymoron as it has actually driven me away from suppliers who are partners with them. There again I am just a "stupid" consumer who should be a mark for every sharp practise.  

about 9 years ago


Dr R Rao

I too am a "stupid" customer of trainline, who has had a sum of £10 deducted every month from my credit card account without realising it.

I only noticed after watching a news item today.

over 8 years ago


Henry Hargreaves

Yes, another mug who has been scammed by Shopperdiscounts, £10 stolen from my bank account for the past six months.  There must be thousands of us innocents betrayed by companies who passed on our confidential credit card details to the spivs at Shopperdiscounts, in my case I had the misfortune to have dealt with Picstop - alas never again. All the participants should be fully exposed and blacklisted.

over 8 years ago



Just to say I too am "stupid"...but due to fact it was on the back end of a transaction with a "trusted" site/company thetrainline, and add that i didnt provide Credit card details myself, i must have give authorisation to ttrainline to provide these.

3 things...

* I deal with contracts within financial industry every day....I am very stupid not to have read t&c

*Shopperdiscount.c are in my opinion are doing nothing more than arranging a number of  discounts as a front for praying on unaware general public in order to take £10 per month, alot of ppl with see £10 card payment going to "shopper somthing" and think they have been and purchased something...many will just not check statements/emails.

*Finally there is the initial retailer..in my case thetrainline, a company that in all honesty is not protecting its customers...the ones who they want to come back time and time again, legally trainline are doing nothing wrong, but when you think about it, they really dont value customers.

over 8 years ago


J Cripps

I couldn't agree more with Naipur. I recently noticed the deductions from my account. I rang 'complete savings' aka webloyalty and demanded a refund which they have done right away.

A well known and trusted company such as trainline.com' have allowed this company to rip off its customers, with a scam and in consequence I no longer trust them to manage my online bookings. Net result they lose a customer and quite a few judging by the publicity.

Trust takes a longer time to earn and can be lost in a matter of seconds. social media has allowed the consumer to be king again, and quite rightly so.

about 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@J Cripps So they're called 'complete savings' now?

I'm surprised the trainline.com still does this.

about 6 years ago

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