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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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  • Re:Pathetic (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:45PM (#28284043) Homepage Journal

    No doubt. That is simply cost-of-business to those crap-peddlers.

  • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:46PM (#28284057) Homepage

    It's not immediately clear if the companies will be governed by the same rules in the UK.

    The charge-back form from your bank, will most likely have this scenario as one of the generic reasons for issuing a charge back.
    I caught sneaky virgin media dipping in for an extra month (before they turned super evil), but the money was back in my account within a few weeks.

    They'll get a charge back fee for sure; though the companies size probably makes them immune from having their card processing facility revoked, for excessive charge backs. Shame.

  • Rebills? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by basementman ( 1475159 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @03:48PM (#28284103) Homepage

    I wonder if this means they will also begin cracking down on people promoting rebills (crap online products that start with an initial buy in price of $2 but then charge you another $60 after a month). Which they try to claim they're legal because they bury it 4 pages in on the Terms and Conditions page which is link to in fine print on the bottom of the sales page.

  • Re:EULA not binding (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tsstahl ( 812393 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:30PM (#28284727)
    Hmm, there is case law contradicting your statement.
  • Re:Fine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @04:37PM (#28284861) Homepage Journal
    What is really sad is the increasing trend of LEGAL business models being dependent on misleading the customers.

    You ever see that crap on TV "Try your free sample now! 30 day sample, FREE!!!". They tell you to verify you are over 18, you need a credit card. What they don't tell you, and what most people find out the hard way, is tucked away in your free samples informational booklet that you will never read is that when you ordered this free sample, you agreed to a monthly, recurring renewal of this product.

    Ever want to try out a gym like Bally's? You know, where they offer you an introductory rate at almost nothing for a month? Yeah, about that. If you don't pay attention, then you forfeit your trial status if you don't appear at the gym something like 5x a week for that month, or you automatically become a "standard member" with all fee's and penalties applicable.

    Ever seen a Cici's pizza, where they advertise their buffet for "Five Dollars and some change"? That is actually $5.99, without a drink, and if you are using anything but cash, you get nailed by a $1 "fee" for using their debit/credit machine. By the time you figure this out, you already have your family at the register, ready to eat. A little hard to back out then.

    Some of these are more obvious than others, but the point is, we gave them an inch, and they took more than a mile. It is total bullshit and it is only getting worse.
  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:23PM (#28285503) Journal

    I find it very. . . interesting, that on the McAfee website, you can turn ON the auto-renew yourself through the account management, but to get it turned OFF, you have to contact their customer service reps. What kind of BS is that? I'm getting my parents away from McAfee, and I myself left McAfee a couple years back. They used to be a good company to deal with. Now, I just don't trust them anymore. Setting up your website like that just screams out to me that they are trying to make it as hard as possible for people to get out of the auto-renew.

  • Re:Pathetic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oakgrove ( 845019 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:30PM (#28285615)
    However, this is good news in that despite the EULA containing info about the auto-renewal, that wasn't enough to justify the practise. Further proof that, in the eyes of the law, the EULA is anything but iron-clad.
  • Re:Fine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hurfy ( 735314 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @05:45PM (#28285889)

    Don't rely on the CC expiring. Sony managed to bill my expired Visa debit card for a Stars Wars subscription once. Turbine didn't for similar services. Not sure how that works but naturally i would have wanted it to be the opposite :( Got the bank to reverse after convincing them they couldn't explain it to my satisfaction why they let them bill an expired card.

    Back on topic...

    yup, that is barely a blip as a cost of doing business for them i am sure. Millions in subs vs $375k in fines is probably only a percent or 2. I don't see that they agreed to stop, nor any of the other bazillion companies doing the same. Just a feel-good deal for an Attorney General while the companies rewrite a couple lines of the EULA in CAPS....

  • Credit card fee$ (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KingAlanI ( 1270538 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @07:21PM (#28286995) Homepage Journal

    I can't comment on the quality of Cici's food, but I must say that $1 goes overboard. PayPal would ding me for 47 cents on a $5.99 payment [$0.30 plus (2.9% * payment_size)], and a large business probably gets better rates. [Paypal almost certainly has the leverage to be paying much less than 2.9%, that's where their profit comes from. :)]

    So while I approve of (in principle) extending the credit card charge to customers *, Cici's is definitely ripping people off with the amount of the charge.

    Hiding costs like CC transaction fees seems like a bad idea, especially if they can easily be avoided.
    Maybe if the customer had to pay the fees, they'd consider using another payment method. If the merchant can't or doesn't pass the fees along, it becomes a Not My Problem(TM)-type situation. The credit card companies obviously don't like that possibility, so I suspect that's why they stress "can't pass the fees along" in their merchant contracts. (There are antitrust issues here, and with the credit card merchant fees in general)

    Although I don't have a citation handy, I suspect that in some areas, it's written into the relevant law that the fees can't be passed along - although shielding the public from shenanigans like Cici's is a good idea, the credit card company lobbyists want such laws for the reasons mentioned earlier.

    On small sales, the flat-rate portion of the fee is a big deal. On low-margin sales, the percentage charge is important, so no wonder the end-merchants want to do something about it

    Selling online, credit card/PayPal are a different issues, because it avoids the aggravation, cost and time-delay of mailed in payments. As such, for physical stores, it's a different story.

  • Yeah, which is a shame, as in the days of Win3.xx and Win9X Norton stood for quality. In the shop i was working at at the time we pretty much insisted that a customer pick up Norton Utilities with their new PC purchase. Norton Utilities and especially Disk Doctor were simply miles above anything MSFT packed with the OS and would often fix things that would have meant a return if you only used MSFT tools. But then Win9X gave way to WinNT arch and they just went down the shitter.

    Now as far as AVs go, I give Avast! to my customers that still have Win2K workstations(like the one I am typing this on) and Comodo Internet Security to those on XP32/64 and Vista. While I think Avast! runs better on older hardware Comodo is simply more user friendly IMHO and seems to be the best I've tried so far for 64 bit Windows. On my XP X64(which despite all the horror stories I heard actually turned out to be a damn fine OS) it hardly uses any resources and does its job quietly and effectively. So my rule of thumb is-older machine equals Avast! and newer and 64bit equals Comodo.

  • Re:Fine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grimbleton ( 1034446 ) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:17PM (#28287981)

    Yes, how dare the customer pay for the transaction fees in a transaction they start.

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell