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Security Firms Fined Over Never-Ending Subscriptions 194

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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  • by charleste ( 537078 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:07PM (#28284367)

    <rant>About two years ago, I noticed this after I actually went to their website AND called to cancel prior to renewal. It still renewed, and the "customer service" rep had the balls to tell me that they couldn't refund my money when I called about it. I took that one as far up the food chain as I could - including writing an email to the president or whatever, and got the "immediate" response that they wouldn't auto-renew NEXT time. It took approximately 3 months to get my money back. ONLY because I had documented my cancellation with workers numbers and crap. I figure they owe me about $600 in time. </rant>

  • subj (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:13PM (#28284481)

    The main source linked from the article shows that they grossed over $1.2m in this this scheme --- not bad.

  • retunds? (Score:2, Informative)

    by n30na ( 1525807 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:14PM (#28284513) Journal

    Customers will also be allowed to apply for refunds for up to 60 days after being charged.

  • Re:Pathetic (Score:4, Informative)

    by lavacano201014 ( 999580 ) <themaestroofemai ...> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:27PM (#28284699) Homepage Journal
    They still have a free version [] but they just don't advertise it.
  • Re:Fine (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hope Thelps ( 322083 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:27PM (#28284703)

    Were the people technically defrauded? They did agree to the service via EULA after all...

    That's the nature of fraud. Theft is when you take something that belongs to someone else without their permission. Fraud is when you trick someone into agreeing that you can have something. Some cases are very clear cut when the poor frail old lady is tricked into signing away everything she had, some are more mundane like this. There are a LOT of grey areas but getting someone to 'agree' to terms they haven't read or haven't understood is a common tool of fraud.

  • Free Alternatives (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_denman ( 800425 ) <> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:54PM (#28285127) Homepage
    There are plenty of free alternatives out there, I personally prefer AVG. Here [] is an article laying the free options out for you.
  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:17PM (#28285423) Journal

    Those "Free" versions (AVG, Avast, maybe others) are often restricted in the fine print so that you can do no commercial activity whatsoever on your computer. It's ambiguously enough stated that even just using a remote access program to access your computer at your job to do work from home might be violating the EULA. Granted, it's not likely that they'll actually catch you, but the point still remains that if you do anything that might be construed as generating income now or in the future, you might be a fly in their web.

    Not an issue as much with ClamWin, but ClamWin has no real-time scanner, which despite the parent post's assertion, do sometimes stop infections before they happen (not always, it's true, but enough of the time that it's definitely worth having anti-virus software of some sort). The On-access scanner isn't *required*, but most users will not remember to manually scan stuff 100 percent of the time. The On-access scanners, will provide much more consistent protection against infection than a manual scanner, for most users.

    Personally, I've been using the AVG Free edition, and if I need to upgrade to a 'commercial use' license in the future, AVG seems to have slightly better prices than most of the others out there.

  • Re:Fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:43PM (#28285849)

    Precisely where it is now.

    The typical EULA either denies certain rights to the user, or requires the user to do something, or establishes a potentially unwanted continuing obligation. Since the user is giving something up, this requires some sort of contract. Whether, and under what conditions, a EULA constitutes a valid contract is still heavily debated, and will be until either Congress does something about it (most EULAs cross state boundaries), or there's enough generally accepted case law.

    The GPL does not deny you any rights you already had, or obligate you to do something. It establishes conditions on how you can do certain things that would otherwise be illegal. The user is giving nothing up, but if the user wants to do something beyond use the software, the user must comply with the license. This does not require any sort of contract.

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:44PM (#28285877) Homepage

    Charge-backs aren't always that easy to do. I had one that I thought was super-straightforward (merchant charged me twice in a row for the same thing, and wouldn't communicate with me about the problem), but the cc company wouldn't do the chargeback because my evidence didn't convince them.

    If you've got a recurring charge that you want to cancel, and you have a feeling that the company might be sleazy about it, the simplest thing to do is just cancel the cc number associated with the periodic billing, and have your cc company set you up with a new card and a new number. Same thing you'd do for any other kind of fraud, such as identity theft. If you have other recurring payments on that card, you do have to change them to the new number, but that's probably less than half an hour of work if you don't have too many of them -- that's a lot less than the amount of time you could spend banging your head against the wall trying to deal with the dishonest company that's the source of the problem.

    Trying the charge-back can't hurt, of course. If the merchant is both small and sleazy, it might actually have a significant effect on them. If there are enough charge-backs, the cc company will shift them to a higher-risk category (which costs the merchant money).

    The sleaziest example of abusive recurring charges I ever had to deal with was with the company that was providing me with a merchant credit card account. I canceled the account, but then a year later their charges mysteriously started showing up on my monthly cc bill again. Getting a new account number was my cc company's suggestion. Worked great.

  • Re:Pathetic (Score:3, Informative)

    by Arthur Grumbine ( 1086397 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:56PM (#28286101) Journal

    They still have a free version [] but they just don't advertise it.

    That's right, they've outsourced their advertising to WHOOSH, a small, but persistently oblivious content-writing firm with members all over the world, most commonly found posting in this thread.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson