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Security Firms Fined Over Never-Ending Subscriptions 194

Posted by timothy
from the crooks-v.-thieves- dept.
Barence writes "'Security firms Symantec and McAfee have both agreed to pay $375,000 to US authorities after they automatically renewed consumers' subscriptions without their consent.' The two companies were reported to the New York Attorney General after people complained that their credit cards were being charged without their consent. The investigators found that information about the auto-renewals was hidden at the bottom of long web pages or buried in the EULA."
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Security Firms Fined Over Never-Ending Subscriptions

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  • Pathetic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by akanouras (1431981) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:43PM (#28283999)
    $375,000? That's petty change compared to how much they made out of it.
  • Fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:45PM (#28284045) Journal

    Security firms Symantec and McAfee have both agreed to pay $375,000 to US authorities

    And how much are they going to pay to the people they defrauded?

  • by djh101010 (656795) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:45PM (#28284051) Homepage Journal
    You know, I can't think of a single subscription service I have that _doesn't_ auto-renew. In fact, I would be quite annoyed if I had to explicitly tell them "Yes, please, I want the Internet / satellite TV / newspaper tomorrow as well".

    Is there anyone surprised that if you sign up for a subscription, that it keeps going?
  • Re:Fine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Random2 (1412773) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:49PM (#28284115) Journal
    Were the people technically defrauded? They did agree to the service via EULA after all...
  • Re:Humph... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:51PM (#28284133) Homepage

    Synamic products = Virus
    Anti-Synantec = Anti-Virus

  • I get periodic statements for my newspaper and cable/TV/phone subscriptions. Generally speaking those subscriptions are month-to-month. If I don't send a check, the newspaper stops. These folks do offer automatic billing to your credit card, but the ones I have seen are VERY clear about this offer. They don't bury the renewal option in the fine print.

    A better example to the anti-virus subscription is a magazine subscription. You know up front that you are signing up for a one year, two year, or some other subscription time period. As that time period nears an end (usually much sooner) you start to receive notices that you should renew. Even if you paid the initial subscription with a credit card, they don't automatically renew with that card.

  • by atfrase (879806) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:55PM (#28284201)

    You know, I can't think of a single subscription service I have that _doesn't_ auto-renew. In fact, I would be quite annoyed if I had to explicitly tell them "Yes, please, I want the Internet / satellite TV / newspaper tomorrow as well".

    Is there anyone surprised that if you sign up for a subscription, that it keeps going?

    I think part of the problem is that a lot of people still don't think of computer security in general, and virus/malware/etc protection in particular, as an ongoing necessity. People's computers slow down, crash, display popups or whatever, they go out and buy some product to "fix it", and think of it as a one-time deal. They don't think of it as a "subscription" and don't expect to have to renew it.

  • Malware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr_eX9 (800448) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:06PM (#28284357) Homepage
    Antivirus companies: The world's only legitimate malware vendors.
  • Re:Fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:07PM (#28284373) Homepage Journal
    I'm sorry. While I agree that reading a contract of any merit is important before agreeing to it, some EULA's are DOZENS of pages. I have two colleagues who's whole job is solely to read and interpret EULA's for software that has potential of being purchased. Combine these two things, with the affirmation that you can screw end users by hiding fees in the EULA and you are asking for absolute disaster. It shouldn't be allowed at all.
  • rtfeula tag? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by system1111 (1527561) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:07PM (#28284385)
    Really??? Something such as auto-renewal charging is not EULA material. Most users have been brainwashed into clicking yes through these things. Sounds like I should make 40 page EULA on my next app that states "LULz if accepted you agree to the additional BS fee of 1 million dollars". I don't see why they couldn't do anything as mentioned here as per magazine/utilities models. (Yes utilities have auto renew but all that I've come across force you to sign up and hit at least 3 "Are you sure you want to turn this on buttons") Really this just comes across as a petty way to get a few more bucks out of people.
  • EULA not binding (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Comboman (895500) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:08PM (#28284407)
    In a court of law, clicking OK on a EULA does not carry the same weight as signing a contract.
  • Re:Pathetic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gnick (1211984) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:11PM (#28284461) Homepage

    This is unconscionable. AVG [avg.com] has also auto-renewed my subscription perpetually ever since I installed it. I want my bandwidth back!

    Seriously though, "cost of business" is exactly right. If the return outweighs the risk*most-likely-consequence, no business would act ethically. It's like insurance companies randomly denying claims knowing that some denials will go unchallenged and they'll come out ahead. The punishment should outweigh the crime.

  • Re:Fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snowraver1 (1052510) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:11PM (#28284463)
    It's hard to say. As gets brought up on /. quite frequently, EULAs have never really been tested in court. I personally feel that they should be unenforcable because no one reads them, and they are too complicated for the average person. If they are enforceable, it makes it too easy for entities to slip in one-sided terms.

    As a consumer, I would expect that any rebill stuff should be clearly presented to the customer to prevent any confusion, at the time of checkout. It should be in bold, and might include a checkbox to check representing that you understand that this will be rebilled.

    I feel that at best, it was underhanded and deceiving, and at worst downright fraudulant.
  • by n30na (1525807) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:12PM (#28284475) Journal
    Are you saying you read the EULA for every piece of software you use? For most of us with jobs and limited time, that's not a reasonable reality.
  • Re:Pathetic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:19PM (#28284565) Homepage Journal

    In the past, when an aristocrat or lord committed a crime against a lesser citizen, they were not held to account in the same way as an ordinary man would. Instead of summary justice, they needed only to pay a small fine or make some other slight amends. This included crimes such as aggravated assault and murder.

    Our society is not so different.

  • Ah yes... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by binaryseraph (955557) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:21PM (#28284597)
    Nothing like taking pages from the porno industry M.O. Beautiful.
  • by pdragon04 (801577) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:26PM (#28284687)
    I run my own home computer repair company (but don't have enough bandwidth to post my URL here). I give all my customers the free versions of AVG, Avast, or Clamwin, depending on their needs/preferences. Usually throw on Spybot and show them how to use the Immunize feature as well. My advice to them is to never, EVER pay for Antivirus/Antispyware software ever again. It's doesn't prevent infections and they end up just having to pay someone to fix it for them anyway. The free stuff is plenty good enough for notifying them when an infection has occurred. My customers thank me for my honesty, for saving them money, and I get plenty more business than I ever would shelling out subscriptions to crap like this.
  • Uh huh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by interval1066 (668936) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:31PM (#28284743) Homepage Journal

    I hate to be an "I told you so..."

    No I don't. I told all my family and friends, geek and non-geek alike, to opt-out of bundleware, especially Symantec and MacAfee. There are a number of free offerings out there that are less annoying, just as or more effective, and by that are less likely to steal from you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:46PM (#28285021)

    Hmm, there is no case law contradicting his statement.

    see how easy that is without proof?

  • ClamAV (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:10PM (#28285323) Homepage Journal

    sadly, some government departments institutionalise this ("all PCs must have anti-virus") which led to a spate of pointless "virus scanner" programs for gnu/linux with virus-signatures from the 1980's.

    If mail is going through your Linux box, wouldn't you want to run ClamAV on the attachments?

  • by tsa (15680) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:25PM (#28285533) Homepage

    Here in the Netherlands automatic renewal of subscriptions to anything is standard. You have to call or write to the organization to stop your subscription by the next renewal period. This is extremely annoying and tedious of course. I'm so glad I have an American provider for my websites and email! Every year I get an email from them, in which they ask me in a friendly way to renew my subscription. That's the way I like it!

  • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @06:09PM (#28286243)
    so post a link, why don't you?
  • Re:Fine (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:02PM (#28287857)

    IANAL

    You anal what?
    You anally rape goats?

    Sorry, I had to. I just had to. Every time I see IANAL I always think "you like anal sex? Ewww!"

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