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Bonzi Class Action Suit Settled: No Foolin'! 376

An anonymous reader writes "According to this article in the Toronto Star, a class action suit against Bonzi Software has reached a settlement. Bonzi will not pay damages but will be required to stop using fake user interface (FUI) style error messages to trick users into clicking on their banners. This is a big win for the community as it will help to improve the Internet's ailing perceived user experience. Most of you have seen Bonzi's banners, and probably most of you won't admit to having been fooled by them at some point. Well, imagine how many novice computer users were tricked into installing again, or paying for software they really did not need. Congratulations and thanks to Lukins & Annis for a job well done. Interestingly, has been returning connection refused all day. This is usually one of the net's busiest sites."
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Bonzi Class Action Suit Settled: No Foolin'!

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  • by sweeney37 ( 325921 ) * <<mikesweeney> <at> <>> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:58PM (#6058994) Homepage Journal
    so how does this help those same novice users who had to pay for expensive PC repair because they also didn't know how to remove the software?

  • Overstated Impact (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dtolton ( 162216 ) * on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:59PM (#6058995) Homepage
    "The San Luis Obispo, Calif., software company has reached a
    settlement in a landmark U.S. case that could have far-reaching
    impact for companies that try to disguise their online banner

    That seems like a pretty drastic over-statement. This is a
    settlement, the judge didn't decide in their favor. I don't
    think settlements have any value as far as precedent goes.
    That's why so many people settle cases in the first place. To
    classify this as a "landmark" case looks like someone is having
    delusions of grandeur.

    I am happy to see that they'll stop using those irritating
    banners though. They don't usually get me anymore, but every
    once in a while they'll cause a minor palpitation (unless of
    course I'm on a Linux box).
    • Re:Overstated Impact (Score:5, Informative)

      by LostCluster ( 625375 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:19PM (#6059236)
      I don't think settlements have any value as far as precedent goes.

      IANAL, but they do...

      See, this settlement means that it's not correct to say that Bonzi lost the lawsuit, but it does allow somebody to say that Bonzi didn't win either. They gave up, indicating that Bonzi didn't believe enough in its own argument to bother to take it to a judge or jury.

      So, to the next Bonzi-like company that comes along the message is that FUI isn't likely to be defendable in court. Yeah, there's a chance somebody else could defend the use of FUI in court and end up a winner because in the eyes of the court this is still an undecided question. However, in the eyes of the greedy businessman there's already a precedent logged in the world's history that says the first company to try to use FUI in a bold way got a public embarassment and was forced to accept an agreement that made them promise to never use FUI again.

      Will there eventually be somebody willing to take the chance that FUI will stand up in court, of course. However, there's a good number of business people who when shown what happened to Bonzi will take that information and conclude that "somebody already tried that and failed" and take their company's marketing in a differnt direction, so it's going to be a good long time before somebody bold enough to make heavy use of FUI comes along.

      FUI's not dead, but this settlement has it hospitalized.
      • by hesiod ( 111176 )
        > already a precedent logged in the world's history that says the first company to try to use FUI in a bold way got a public embarassment

        I agree with what you said on a theoretical basis, because, of course, you are correct. But I think most small businesses(*), especially those who need to trick the consumer to buy the product, would not look for any legal precedent, let alone settlements, when choosing an advertising method. To those who are not like us, it's just another way to advertise a product
  • Ah... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Obiwan Kenobi ( 32807 ) * <evan&misterorange,com> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:59PM (#6058997) Homepage
    Interestingly, has been returning connection refused all day. This is usually one of the net's busiest sites.

    Ah...a little thing called justice.
  • Bonzi buddy! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mao che minh ( 611166 ) * on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @01:59PM (#6059001) Journal
    Anyone remember when Bonzi first came out? I was a tech back then, and almost all of the systems on the campus were crashing and experiencing major slow down for a couple of days. I would run the usual gamut of questions: "Did you install anything new? Are you using AIM or ICQ? How many programs do you have open?". Asking these questions over the phone is futile, but you do it anyways, cause you're a lazy tech and you don't want to leave the air conditioned NOC. So I had to eventually turn off the game of Quake, log out of, and carry my lazy ass down to all of the offices. It was funny to be half listening to the clerk/professor/secretary/manager telling me about how they "never install anything on their computer" and how they "always run scandisk and the virus scanner on Friday at 4:30pm" and bla bla bla, just as their system grinds to a halt with a big purple ape [] on the screen jumping out at you, and the jarring blare of a long drawn out "uh ohh!!" that corresponds with the reception of 80 new ICQ messages.
  • Good job! (Score:4, Funny)

    by aeinome ( 672135 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:01PM (#6059010) Journal
    I agree, m4d props to L&A for showing them up. I've never actually clicked on one of them (I swear) but my friend, who uses the same computer, does so numerously. I pretty much have to uninstall Gator and such on a daily basis.
  • by oscast ( 653817 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:01PM (#6059013) Homepage
    I thought my OS X aqua icons turned into these nasty, square-shaped, clunky, windows-esch styled buttons.
  • my dad used it... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zbowling ( 597617 ) * <zac@z[ ] ['acb' in gap]> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:01PM (#6059014) Homepage Journal
    Seems to be work for me. Maybe your isp blocked that domain on there dns servers. Interestingly anough I got this popup image [] when I visted the site.

    My dad used to use bonzi before I explained what a fool he was for installing spy ware. He like the bonzi-buddy (the little Microsoft Agent Charater) because he could make it talk and it would sing to him.
  • by McSnarf ( 676600 ) * on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:01PM (#6059018)
    What will keep Bonzi from "selling the idea" to another seemingly independent company?
    Their scheme (not to be mistaken for the way more profitable, way more illegal Ponzi scheme) most likely made them enough money to be of value to a lot of other seedy companies.

    Still - a milestone !

  • There needs to be a way for the IP addresses of known bad guys, like Bonzi and Gator, to be filtered out at the ISP level so they do not massively disrupt computers. Perhaps a central authority used to designate spyware domain names and IP addresses...
    • by poptones ( 653660 )
      If you're an admin, you got the power. If you own your PC, you got the power. The last thing the 'net needs is some "central authority" to determine who gets to talk and who doesn't.
    • Client Side sotware. (Score:5, Informative)

      by zbowling ( 597617 ) * <zac@z[ ] ['acb' in gap]> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:17PM (#6059219) Homepage Journal
      Spyware Blaster ( ml) is nice because it prevents spyware from installing by fooling Windows into thinking its already installed by making regisitry keys with the spyware ClassIDs. It also prevents you from seeing ads and spyware by changing IE's privacy host to reject anything from a list of spyware domains. (even so about half the ads on the internet disapeared in IE for me) It also auto-updates its known host list. This will only help you prevent spyware, but it also comes with a tool for reseting your browser pages. (So if you installed yahoo bar and can't figure out where it reset your default search page and error pages at in the regisitry this will help).

      Ad-aware ( is a nice client side product for scanning and cleaning out spyware from your system. Its free version will do almost everything the paid version will but it won't doing anything automaticaly. does a very good job at listing bad hostnames and ips so if you want you can check that site for more info.

      Hope that helps!

  • Big win? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:03PM (#6059031) Journal

    Bonzi will not pay damages but will be required to stop using fake user interface (FUI) style error messages to trick users into clicking on their banners. This is a big win for the community ...

    A big win? What are you smoking? Bonzai duped countless users for years and completely got away with it. They didn't have to pay anything. A big win would be if they got slapped with such a huge fine that it would serve as a lesson to other companies contemplating the same sort of "business model".


  • Cavaliers (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jack Comics ( 631233 ) * <> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:03PM (#6059035) Homepage
    Bonzi doesn't have to pay any money? I guess Perfect Tommy and the rest of the Hong Kong Cavaliers managed to save the day after all!

    Bad joke, I know but it had to be said, err... written. :)
  • by dbravender ( 576338 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:04PM (#6059050)
    Your operating system sucks. Click here to install Linux now! [Ok]
  • Nothing (Score:3, Funny)

    by unicron ( 20286 ) <> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:10PM (#6059117) Homepage
    Will EVER beat the Window Messaging Service pop-up I got selling a program that blocks Windows Messaging Service. They never responded to my emails as to whether or not they offered "change your windows background" or "how to change your boot-up wav" software.
  • I figure the Bonzi ads worked because everyone had the same-style GUI elements universal to all Windows. (The ads didn't fool me because they didn't look like real windows on my KDE screen ;)

    Seems like someone would try to create ads that follow the Aqua L& least if they are selling their 'goods' to a Mac crowd.

    On the other hand, Apple may not like that, and be more proactive than MS in stopping this kind of thing.

  • Most of you have seen Bonzi's banners, and probably most of you won't admit to having been fooled by them at some point.

    Yeah, 'cause on a linux or MacOS X box, those Windows dialog boxes look SO realistic! I know I always had to think twice. Not.

    It's a shame they're going to stop using (snicker) "FUI". I thought it was fantastic- Internet Darwinism!

  • OH PLEASE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:12PM (#6059154)
    ### GIVE ME A BREAK! ### Has anyone noticed the guy (Philip J. Carstens) who is suing Bonzi Software also sued his "former employer" after he sustained an "injury" of a "traumatic nature" when he bit into a piece of "Halloween Candy" taken from a dish located on the reception desk of his employer and "broke loose a dental crown."

    It's kind of like the story about the burglar who sued for being trapped for 8 days in a garage of a house that he burgled -- with "nothing" to survive on, except a case of soft drinks and a bag of dry dog food.

    You should read his legal arguement: "The candy was either furnished by Mr. Carstens' employer, or by the receptionist employed by Mr. Carstens' employer, with full knowledge of the company's management and because the injury occurred in the course of his employment, Mr. Carstens had clearly sustained an injury compensable under the Industrial Insurance Act."

    Compensable? What does that word mean? Do they mean like... as in... compensation? Do they mean like... M-O-N-E-Y?

    But the really shocking thing is: HE WON THE CANDY LAWSUIT AND ACTUALLY GOT MONEY FOR HIS "TRAUMATIC INJURIES"! You can read all the "traumatic" details of that fateful day at:

    However, there's one more interesting twist to this story. It turns out the "businessman" who filed the lawsuit is not really a "businessman" after all, but a lawyer who is just pretending to be someone else -- and it gets worse -- the "employer" that Mr. Carstens sued was none-other-than the law firm of "Ludkins & Annis" -- that's right, the same law firm who is now suing Bonzi Software on Mr. Carstens' behalf.

    If you are scratching your head, so am I. I don't get it. What's really going on here? This lawyer claims he does not work for the law firm of Ludkins & Annis -- yet, their website in Google's "cache" says: "Philip J. Carstens has been a principal at the law firm of Ludkins & Annis since 1974."


    The poor guy. I guess some people just have all the bad luck.
  • by Schezar ( 249629 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:13PM (#6059156) Homepage Journal
    Not just Bonzai, but all of those ads that try to 'trick' users into clicking through: fake 'X' buttons, bogus radio buttons, etc...

    How many people, once fooled into the company's web site, decide "Hey, I'm already here. Why not give them my credit card number for some useless piece of shit I don't need."


    I'm serious. Has there ever been a study on this sort of thing?
  • by Le Marteau ( 206396 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:14PM (#6059175) Journal
    Liars. They think lying's an OK way to make a buck. And like all liars, they think everyone else is a liar, too, which makes it OK.

    They have no idea that the content of one's character is the most important thing in the world. Contrary to what the religions of mammon would have you believe, the ONLY truly holy thing there can ever be is an impeccable character. I'd much MUCH rather sleep in the gutter with a sparkling character than be a Banzi executive.

    Bunch of animals, those Banzi creatures, and everyone like them... no, I take that back... most animals are sincere... humans have the corner on the liars market.
  • Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:15PM (#6059185)
    These banners aren't fraudulent just because of what they say -- although what they say is certainly deceptive as well. My most serious objection to them is that they are deliberately designed to look like something much more important than advertising. If a company started putting up roadside advertisements made to look like road construction signs, little carts with blinking arrows made of individual lights (such as the DOT uses), and so on, in order to convince drivers that their driveway was the next exit, or that it was imperative to get off at their exit as part of a detour due to road construction, would we allow that? (Okay, Microsoft is not a government agency, but the importance of operating systems error messages on a computer is very similar to the importance of highway department messages on a highway.)
  • by bobm17ch ( 643515 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:16PM (#6059197)

    WARNING Linux user! You have some Micro$oft webpages in your browser's cache! We can help you remove them safely!

    Open up a shell and type: apt-get install hitthemonkey

    K THX!

  • I was tricked.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xchino ( 591175 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:18PM (#6059221)
    I'll admit it, they got me once. I don't think the company was Bonzi, but this company had a really dirty trick :) They had a regular FUI, then an extra control menu graphic on top of the regular FUI, in a window with no menus. I instantly recognized it as another fake windows popup, and as I have been so accustomed to doing, I went to close it down, and clicked on the added destroy window button graphic and was of course taken to some site with no interest to me.

    That's just dirty..
  • by Col. Panic ( 90528 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:18PM (#6059231) Homepage Journal
    gimme an 'R'!
    gimme an 'E'!
    gimme a 'C'!
    gimme another 'E'!
    gimme a 'D'!
    gimme yet another 'E'!
    gimme an 'N'!
    gimme a 'T'!
    What's that spell?

  • I don't know who bought the ad space for Bonzi and their like, but seeing their "Your computer is broadcasting an IP address!" or the "Your computer is vulnerable to virii!" on my Mac always freaked me out. The stupid people ran boxes in the windows GUI on mac sites for jebus sakes

    eeek! How the hell did Windows get installed on my mac??? Why are there these ugly boxes showing up???

    However, I was concerned about this dangerous "IP address" it mentions, so I still downloaded it for that protection...
    • I agree. Whoppdy-do-da-day if my computer is broadcasting an its IP. Any intelegent person would laugh if they seen that. Everyone thinks that if someone knows your IP, its then end of the world because they hear "He got my ip and then hacked me." or something. Its a misconseption about what your ip is for. The only reason anyone would worry at this this level is if you were totally insecure (using windows without any patchs for example) or you were doing something illegal (like on a warez site and since bo
  • by Prince_Ali ( 614163 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:21PM (#6059256) Journal
    It took me days to convince my girlfriend that bonzi buddy was not her friend. The same thing happened with comet cursor. I had to explain to her that you can get southpark cursors without a special program. It is just too easy to fool people into installing this software. I basically do the maintenance on all of my friends' computers (for free), and this spyware stuff is getting out of hand. In my opinion it is already more hostile to the average user than spam and viruses combined.
  • by zrodney ( 253699 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:21PM (#6059257)
    Most of you have seen Bonzi's banners...

    nope -- I don't see any of them anymore thanks to the userContent.css style sheet.

    it will match urls for ads and replace the image with nothing. So, you get the web page without any irritating ads at all.

    The css lines are customizable as much as you like. They look like this:

    A:link[HREF*="?click"] IMG { display: none ! important }
    A:link[HREF*="?banner"] IMG { display: none ! important }

    more details and the file at this url: laCustomize []

    • by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:31PM (#6059369)
      nope -- I don't see any of them anymore thanks to the userContent.css style sheet.

      Well, that's all well and good, but your computer is broadcasting an IP address which can be used by hackers, and now you can't even be warned of this fact. Thanks to Bonzi, I found out about this years ago, and my net experience has been much safer since I installed their software. *phew*

  • Yum. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:25PM (#6059304) Homepage
    I worked at a corporate office for about a week before everyone got laid off. Naturally, they learned of my skill with computers and wanted me to fix them during breaktime and such. Being nice, I did. AOL Companion. AOL. Bonzi buddy. Gator. Weathercast. With these programs and Windows open only, newly booted, the machines had about 20% free system resources. Considering they'd be working and Gator or Bonzi buddy would popup and make noise and disturb them, how much damage is it doing? How much fun is it to be in the middle of a big data entry project, in the 'zone' and you get disturbed by a gigantic monkey with no 'off' button that wants to eat/nap/take your money? Not very much, I'd imagine. So I uninstalled everything. AOL Companion, Bonzi buddy, Gator, Weathercast, but I left AOL on non-startup. Just for their convenience. Next day same thing happens. "I was just clicking the targets and..." The targets. Isn't it illegal to say you've won something and you've really won nothing? Not even a high score on the high score list. But you've just won SPYWARE for your mad banner-clicking skills. Don't get me started on how illegal things like Xupiter should be to put on someone's computer without their permission. Even if their computer gracefully accepts the file and will run it, it still should require the users' authorization. And none of those "Installing.." boxes that just pop up with a progress bar and no cancel button or X, either.
    • Re:Yum. (Score:3, Funny)

      by ryanvm ( 247662 )
      How much fun is it to be in the middle of a big data entry project, in the 'zone' and you get disturbed by a gigantic monkey with no 'off' button that wants to eat/nap/take your money?

      Oh, so you've met my brother-in-law then?
  • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:27PM (#6059318) Journal
    We know the consumers got nothing, but how many new BMWs are being bought with the settlement cash?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Now we just need a suit against Microsoft for that annoying Office Paperclip... I'll get you paperclip! You may have won the battle, but the war is not over! You're dead paperclip! DEAD!
  • Dumbasses... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ( 645325 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:28PM (#6059331)
    I've never understood why they used static images for those fake alert ads; I mean, yeah, it's usually the default colors of some flavor of windows, but wouldn't they have better luck using CSS and system colors []? Or maybe that part of the spec doesn't work with IE... I wouldn't know.

    I'm just happy that I got my computer illiterate parents to use Mozilla. When the telco guy was installing DSL, he told them that they'd have to use IE and Outlook. I nearly kicked him out on his ass.

  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:33PM (#6059387)
    fake user interface (FUI) style error messages

    This could have been ended years ago if Microsoft had dropped a Look & Feel lawsuit on them. After all, they defend even their ownership of the word "Windows".

    Or was this some secret plan of MS's -- like licensing *nix from SCO when SCO doesn't own it -- to get people to upgrade to XP so these banner ads will appear obsolete? This is how MS protects their users, by changing the whole visual metaphor?

  • My Dad is always click on those things. Then he'll call me (I'm family tech support) and ask me what to do.

    Even though I've explained it to him several dozen times, he still calls. I finally had to install a popup blocker on his browser so as to reduce the number of times he called me.

    Oh, he also double-clicks hyperlinks. Anyone else seen that anoyning trait?
    • Re:My Dad... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jpmoney ( 323533 )
      I think every dad in America double-clicks hyperlinks... at least almost every dad of a Gen-X tech worker since we're about that age.

      My favorite was him coming to me trying to get the pr0n, complete with dialer, off of the computer and giving the excuse of "I was just trying to see how easy it was to protect your [younger] sister." Tsk tsk tsk.

      But then again my dad is far enough up in management (and has been) that he didn't see ANY humor in Office Space at all. Now THAT is sad.

  • Just use a mac... (Score:2, Informative)

    by buserror ( 115301 ) *
    So that their banner look like... stupid banners!

    Now, where is the class action suit against stroboscope ones ?
  • by butane_bob2003 ( 632007 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:37PM (#6059440) Homepage
    Your computer is transmitting an IP address!

    Helpful warning, kind of one the same lines as:

    Your epidermis is showing!
  • it's hard to mistake an ad for an error message, especially if it moves with the HTML as you scroll, and it's a different color than your actual windows widgets.
  • KeWl (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @02:44PM (#6059495)
    so any word on when I get my money for shocking that bouncing monkey thing!
  • by ShwAsasin ( 120187 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @03:00PM (#6059638) Journal
    I'm happy those bogus errors will finally be put to an end, atleast from Bonzi. I'm rather disturbed that the firm that won this lawsuit is called Annis. Am I to believe that all lawyers are assholes, or just in that one practice?
  • god i miss the net (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KingRamsis ( 595828 ) <> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @03:03PM (#6059666)
    For those of you who have been connected since the early 90s/late 80s do you remember how the net was friendly place? Fine people mostly academics and uber geeks, no trolls, no hassle, no spam, hardly any banner ads. Not those full size flashes that interrupt your reading.
    back in those good old days when the ICQ numbers were less than one million, and the beautiful Netscape animated logo (early browser 2.x & 3.x) distracted you till a juicy HTML downloads. Not the stupid Bonzi shit we must live with, a non-tech friend of mine asked me to help him with his computer and I discovered this Bonzi crap, after hours of registry tweaking I managed to remove it, instead of providing a real valuable service their business model is to fuck their customers and ruin there machines and trick them into installing their crap Bonzi, its like selling pizza by stuffing it in your client throat.
  • yep... (Score:5, Funny)

    by maxpublic ( 450413 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @03:11PM (#6059744) Homepage's good to see the monkey being spanked.

  • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @03:32PM (#6060004) Homepage Journal [] isn't really down.

    Kazaa Lite and other applications come with a modified Hosts file you can use to route a number of nasty sites to localhost. is one of the sites that are blocked by default.

    Very nice. I like it, and it's funny to see IE open a popup that loads my workstation's custom 404 error message instead of sending me to popup Hell. Doubleclick and other sites are in that same custom hosts file.
  • DOS these boxen? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @04:36PM (#6060735) Homepage Journal
    I'm usually very much against internet vigilantism, but I would think if any company deserved to have their boxes DOS'd these creeps do.

    Having had several relatives fall into one of their traps only to call me pleading for help and explaining how they got this error message that their computer was "under performing" and that this software would fix everything and now windows can't find this "Registry" thing.

    Then again, when I worked in the corporate helpdesk I had a user call me one day complaining that his computer didn't work... upon further discussion it came to light that he ran out of disk space so he deleted all his (we'll as many as he could before his computer started freaking out) DLL's off the machine.
  • by Loosewire ( 628916 ) * on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @04:41PM (#6060783) Homepage Journal
    Interestingly, has been returning connection refused all day. This is usually one of the net's busiest sites."
    So what do people do when they read this, they click it to see if its true - that was just a ploy to get us to slashdot the site wasnt it ;-)

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents