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Security Firms Fined Over Never-Ending Subscriptions

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the crooks-v.-thieves- dept.

The Courts 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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194 comments

Pathetic (5, Insightful)

akanouras (1431981) | more than 5 years ago | (#28283999)

$375,000? That's petty change compared to how much they made out of it.

Re:Pathetic (2, Interesting)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284043)

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

If you buy from abusers, expect to be abused. (2)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284317)

If you agree with the those charges, then logically you should NEVER by something from Symantec and McAfee. If you do business with abusers, expect to be abused.

Re:If you buy from abusers, expect to be abused. (4, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284497)

I don't deal with either, not because of this, but because they're products suck. I use F-Prot nowadays, cheap and simple, with a dead-dog simple LAN client. I wouldn't install Symantec's garbage on my worst enemy's computer, because I'm a bastard, but not a cruel bastard.

Re:If you buy from abusers, expect to be abused. (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285535)

Symantec has actually improved a great deal over the last couple years. F-Prot is a lot better (I use Avast!, which is also pretty excellent), but Symantec isn't the complete shitpile it used to be.

Generally, I go by this rule of thumb: if it's branded under 'Norton', avoid; 'Symantec', at least evaluate.

Re:Pathetic (3, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284461)

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:Pathetic (1)

parcanman (933838) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284519)

What ever happened to the good old days when AVG was free?

Re:Pathetic (4, Informative)

lavacano201014 (999580) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284699)

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

Re:Pathetic (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284761)

Whoosh. (The link was to the free AVG version.)

Re:Pathetic (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284565)

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.

Re:Pathetic (5, Interesting)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Humph... (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284029)

Anybody who is Anti-Symantec is objectively Pro-Virus.

Re:Humph... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284061)

Or pro-Linux.

Re:Humph... (1)

Alethes (533985) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284145)

Isn't that the same thing? :)

Re:Humph... (4, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284133)

Synamic products = Virus
Anti-Synantec = Anti-Virus

Re:Humph... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284721)

You really should look into your spelling problems, bub.

Re:Humph... (1)

Rasperin (1034758) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285241)

I don't see the correlation.

Re:Humph... (1)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284299)

Anybody who is Anti-Symantec is objectively Pro-Virus.

try buying a PC with kubuntu preloaded and having the vendor tell you you're an irresponsible fool for not buying Symantec or Mcaffee with it...

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.

Re:Humph... (0, Flamebait)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284415)

"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."

actually it does kind of make sense since you could have a Unix/Linux/Mac system be a carrier for a virus
(also its becoming cool to provide a Live AntiVirus CD and most of them are Linux based)

ClamAV (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285323)

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?

Re:Humph... (1)

End Program (963207) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284375)

President Bush, is that you?

Re:Humph... (2, Funny)

jimbudncl (1263912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284453)

Anybody who is anti-Semitic deserves to get a virus? I'm confused.

Re:Humph... (1)

jimbudncl (1263912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284851)

A play on words becomes Trolling... pathetic.

Re:Humph... (1)

cheftw (996831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285083)

Does this count as godwinning?

Fine (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284045)

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?

Re:Fine (3, Insightful)

Random2 (1412773) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284115)

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

Re:Fine (4, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284373)

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.

Re:Fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284735)

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.

Not to mention that they're written in dense legalese that's worse than any spaghetti code you've ever had to debug.

I once hard a PBS program where someone said he tried for a long time to understand his home insurance contract. He gave up in frustration. BTW, he was an insurance lawyer.

He said it was so convoluted that it really was probably not fully understood by the people who wrote it.

Re:Fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285447)

Out of interest, what's their opinion of the GPL?

EULA not binding (2, Insightful)

Comboman (895500) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284407)

In a court of law, clicking OK on a EULA does not carry the same weight as signing a contract.

Re:EULA not binding (1, Interesting)

tsstahl (812393) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284727)

Hmm, there is case law contradicting your statement.

Re:EULA not binding (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285021)

Hmm, there is no case law contradicting his statement.

see how easy that is without proof?

Re:Fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284457)

All the porn sites I subscribe to renew me automatically, I though this was a standard law in all countries ! ;-)

On a more serious note; what about suing if I get infected because they did not renew me automatically, any chances ? ;-)

Re:Fine (5, Insightful)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Fine (3, Interesting)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284861)

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.

Re:Fine (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285617)

Must be just your Cici's - the one near me doesn't charge a fee for credit cards.

Re:Fine (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285719)

Is it even legal to charge a fee for credit-card use? Debit-card, maybe (like a withdrawal from an ATM).

Re:Fine (1)

baKanale (830108) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285195)

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.

If an EULA were tested in court and the verdict were to agree with your position, where, if anywhere, would that leave the GPL and other similar licenses?

Re:Fine (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285333)

I feel the GPL is a good example of what an EULA should be. A standardized license agreement. If you understand the agreement, than you don't have to read every GPL agreement, because they are all the same. It is reasonable to expect the consumer to understand one/two documents about software usage, but to have them read/understand a different EULA for each and every piece of software (and then read them again when they change) is unreasonable.

Re:Fine (4, Informative)

Hope Thelps (322083) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Fine (1)

osgeek (239988) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285079)

Yeah, and if the EULA had some obscure legalese stating that the people were signing giving their homes to Symantec, would that be okay?

EULAs that try to enforce recurring payments when you're just buying desktop utility software are a bit of a surprise. Judges don't like corporations that hide surprises for consumers in their legalese. You shouldn't either. The more companies get away with burying surprises in their EULAs, the more commonplace it will be. You don't want to be pitted against a team of corporate attorneys in a game of one-ups-manship every time you buy something with some sort of EULA.

Re:Fine (1)

JonahsDad (1332091) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285115)

As a previous McAfee user (now AVG), this happened to me this year. As my credit card was expiring, I figured I wouldn't bother to cancel. Unfortunately, I had the dates wrong and the charge happened first. Fortunately, a quick email to McAfee and my subscription was cancelled and the charge was reversed.
I'm not saying what they were doing was right. I am saying that in my case, I had plenty of emails from them warning me ahead of time, plus a very simple procedure to cancel and get a refund.

Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (4, Insightful)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284051)

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:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (5, Insightful)

John3 (85454) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284181)

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.

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (1)

Spike15 (1023769) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284719)

If I don't send a check [...]

Wait people still use cheques?

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284975)

Yes, I've used just over 100, but that was over a five year period.

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285255)

Maybe you're not from the US... The cheque culture is very high there - people still use cheques to pay their rent, and use the postal system to send them....Instead of just being able to pay online.
In fact, some places charge you for paying online! They call it a convenience fee.

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (1)

John3 (85454) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285517)

Actually, I call them checks, but they go through via online banking EFT. Old terminology, sorry.

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (1)

mlong (160620) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284763)

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.

Well you are wrong there...there are a lot of magazines that automatically renew/bill your credit card without your permission. They send you a postcard telling you how special you are to be in their automatic renewal program (which you didn't ask for), and then make you call if you don't want them to charge the card. It annoys the heck out of me and this is why I usually don't pay for a magazine with a credit card.

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (1)

John3 (85454) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285411)

Guess we have different tastes in magazines. About the only time I've seen automatic renewal has been via the magazine clearinghouse and prize companies. My in-laws got suckered into one of those scams, took a month to get it straightened out. Meanwhile, my wife and I have about a dozen subscriptions that we've renewed manually every two years for the past twenty-five years at my home. None have ever charged my card until I manually renewed.

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (1)

Shetan (20885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285491)

I have a number of magazine subscriptions. One of them automatically renews but they will give a full refund for any remaining unmailed issues if I cancel the subscription. Would the "security" firms give a refund if someone cancelled before the automatically renewed subscription time had elapsed?

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284837)

This is how such things should be done.

I had a 'free' magazine subscription attempt to pull this same stunt, they billed be for another year or two, I simply didn't pay. They had a collections agent call me, I told them they didn't ask me if I wanted to continue after the free period, so I wasn't paying. They called a couple more times, finally they gave it up as a lost cause.

This kind of crap should not be allowed, just cause someone used your services in the past does not give you permission to assume they want to continue. Utilities are a bit of a special case as they bill you monthly for your usage, but any case where the cost is known a priori, should require asking for payment before rendering services. And certainly charges should never be made without explicit concent.

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (4, Insightful)

atfrase (879806) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Only if it's made clear it's a subscription. (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284229)

A newspaper is not a self-renewing subscription. I'm sending a check for X dollars for X issues, after which they send me a bill and I pay for another X issues.

When people buy a piece of software, they expect they bought a piece of software. If it has an auto-renewing maintenance subscription, this should be very clear, not buried deep in a EULA as the summary states.

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (1)

Kabuthunk (972557) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284741)

Man, sucks to be wherever you live. Myself, the only things that auto-renew are kinda needed to not die, and our internet. Rent, and electricity. Both kinda needed in winter to avoid death. And for rent I have to sign a paper every time it increases or it won't auto-renew anyway. And the internet, I simply chose that option, but certainly had the option to manually pay yearly/monthly/whatever. It was not forced on me. Same goes for electricity... it's automatic because I chose it to be.

Car insurance? Have to pay it manually every year (or broken into 4 times a year in my case).
Phone? Pay as you go.
Website? I'm on a 2-year payment plan, not auto-renewing
Domain name? Have to manually pay yearly.
Gym membership, recreational things (geocaching.com premium account specifically), things like that... all manually renewed.

In all honesty, I can't even fathom a life in which all payments are automatic. I think I'd hate having that little control over my earnings.

Re:Subscription services and auto-renewal are new? (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285357)

Ya know, the term usually isn't one day. I don't mind so much saying "Yes, I'd like all that THIS year, too." Even an auto-renew option is fine. Just not buried in the legalese that as a practical matter, anyone who isn't hopelessly naive or completely full of crap knows nobody reads. At least nobody that's not paid to (and yes, I do, when I'm paid to).

Now that I think about it, the dead-tree magazines I subscribe to stop coming if I don't say I still want them.

Sting those bastards with a charge back (3, Interesting)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284057)

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.

Re:Sting those bastards with a charge back (-1, Troll)

legirons (809082) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284395)

if the EULA is a contract (which many legal systems think that it is) then by agreeing to the EULA you agreed to the charges. The magistrate isn't going to care that the contract was too long for your little brain to easily comprehend.

If you don't like it, STOP CLICKING "OK" ON EULAs!

Re:Sting those bastards with a charge back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285355)

if the EULA is a contract (which many legal systems think that it is) then by agreeing to the EULA you agreed to the charges. The magistrate isn't going to care that the contract was too long for your little brain to easily comprehend.

If you don't have even a passing familiarity with the US court system, perhaps you should not be giving advice on US contract law. Just a thought.

Rebills? (4, Interesting)

basementman (1475159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284103)

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.

Could also be filed under (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284117)

dept. of defective business models. Also the customer relations from hell.

Where is the "Freedom of Contract" crew? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284159)

Ordinarily, I would have expected a small army of people saying "It was in the contract. If people are too dumb to read the whole thing before they agree to it, they deserve whatever they get."

They seem to be pretty thin on the ground, though.

Pay the governement? (1)

flandar (639569) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284183)

What is the government going to do with this money? It seems to me they should pay it back to the consumers who were ripped off. But we all know they are just going to put it into the general fund and spend it on some pet project or political pay back to one of their cronies. Thanks government, you've helped to keep us safer by taking money from one bad guy and giving it to another.

Re:Pay the governement? (1)

Random2 (1412773) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284279)

They're paying the government because they obfuscated the auto-subscription agreement in their contract. Technically they have not violated their contract with the customers, which is why they're not required to return the money. Although, if they have any PR sense, they would repay their subscribers.

Re:Pay the governement? (1)

LSDelirious (1569065) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285669)

more likely they would offer them a free year's subscription rather then actually giving any money back

Good example similar to the EULA issues... (1)

jeffliott (1558799) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284293)

Where users expect reasonable terms only to later find many that are quite unreasonable.

Re:Good example similar to the EULA issues... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284683)

So similar that it might even be the same:

information about the auto-renewals was hidden at the bottom of long web pages or buried in the EULA.

Malware (4, Insightful)

Mr_eX9 (800448) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284357)

Antivirus companies: The world's only legitimate malware vendors.

Do I get some of that fine money? (5, Informative)

charleste (537078) | more than 5 years ago | (#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>

Re:Do I get some of that fine money? (1)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284615)

One nice thing about credit cards- they are not really that picky about disputing payments. They don't exactly go out of their way to promote the service, though.

Re:Do I get some of that fine money? (4, Interesting)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285503)

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:Do I get some of that fine money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285741)

Believe it or not, this is rather common. The American Automobile Association (AAA) does this with my account. AT&T will let you activate & do all sorts of changes to your phone online, except to cancel service. ING Direct I believe lets you turn on paperless billing online, but requires you to call them to start getting paper bills in the mail again.

The general idea is that if they make you take an extra step to do something, then maybe you won't do it, and go with whatever someone thinks is a good idea. The latest trend with US 401k retirement accounts is automatic enrollment; employers who lack it have low participation, but those that do have it have very few people opting out.

Re:Do I get some of that fine money? (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285571)

Which AV company was it?

Re:Do I get some of that fine money? (1)

biking42 (1437037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285737)

I was a Norton fan-boi from Peter's humble beginnings in '85 or '86 up until my last purchase of Symantec AV in 2006. It was then the bloatware pushed me over the edge when it made my spiffy new AMD 64-X2 crawl like a turtle on downers. After some comparative research jumped ship to Avast!. What I purchased at the time was the 2006 upgrade. About a year and 1month later I happened to look at my credit card statement and saw a charge from Symantec. And it wasn't their old $10/year to renew the virus definition subscription but was something like $25. I was furious! It's impossible to call them anymore but I filled out an online support ticket and to be honest, used wording that I myself would have just deleted with an F-U buddy! But about 2 days later I got a nice email that was quite apologetic and referred to the automatic renewal as a "convenience" but gave no indication how I was supposed to have "canceled" prior to the renewal. But they said they'd happily cancel my new subscription and refund my money. It wasn't but a few days later I saw the charges reversed in full on my credit card. Obviously had I not caught it they'd have been happy to rebill me year after year but I was happy with how quickly the DID respond to my less than tactful complaint. However contrast that to my GoDaddy hosting & domain name registration. Though they have my credit card on file and though I've set it up for automatic renewal (for both hosting and domain name registration), 3 months prior to the renewal I start getting reminder emails that it's time to renew and if I've set it up for automatic renewal then I don't need to do anything, and the email was just to serve as a reminder and notification to expect the charge on my credit card. Yes they're pushing me to renew sooner than needed - and continued to do so up until the automatic renewal - but offered discounts on additional services or things like an additional month. But still I knew full and well before the renewal that it was going to happen - and was plenty of time in advance that I would have had time to move the hosting or domain name someplace else had I chosen to do so.

Re:Do I get some of that fine money? (1)

Piranhaa (672441) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285765)

GoDaddy did something to me a few years back.

I ordered a domain for my friend with the +$30 Google advertising crap. I don't remember whether I chose if it should auto renew, or whether it's enabled by default.

So anyways, half way into it, I cancel the domain auto renewal. You'd think that everything would be fine and dandy, right? WRONG. After the domain expired, I noticed a weird charge on my credit card. I called GoDaddy up and the rep said "There is NO way to refund this charge." She didn't realize how stupid it was to have a website promotion service on a domain name that's not even registered anymore!!!

Anyways, I didn't spend too much time on the phone (that's not my job). I immediately called up VISA, told them what happened (which you're normally supposed to wait 30 days before, but I got away with it in a week), and said I wouldn't need to pay that amount on my card and that there would be no accumulating interest. A few weeks later I noticed a credit on my card for the amount they originally deducted.

For reasons like that, I will continue to use them. They succeeded in my Broadvoice refund as well. I got a free trial, but if you cancel in the "Free" trial period they charge you for the cost of the period. If you cancel AFTER the period ends, they charge you for the next month. There's no way to tell them to cancel your account on a certain day. See anything funny here? Anyways, VISA fixed that up for me too.

Long live the Credit Card companies!

rtfeula tag? (2, Insightful)

system1111 (1527561) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:rtfeula tag? (2, Funny)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284929)

PC Pitstop included a clause in one of its EULAs that promised anyone who read it, a "consideration" including money if they sent a note to an email address listed in the EULA. After four months and more than 3,000 downloads, one person finally wrote in. That person, by the way, got a check for $1,000 proving, at least for one person, that it really does pay to read EULAs.

http://www.pcpitstop.com/spycheck/eula.asp [pcpitstop.com]

So let me get this straight... (0, Redundant)

AequitasVeritas (712728) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284401)

The did what they told the customers they would do (IANAL, but whether or not the customer read the EULA is not up to Symantec, but when the customer agreed to that EULA, they were giving consent for Symantec to charge their card on a recurring basis), and now they are getting fined for it? That seems slightly out of whack to me...

Re:So let me get this straight... (2, Insightful)

n30na (1525807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284475)

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.

subj (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284481)

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

retunds? (2, Informative)

n30na (1525807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284513)

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

Law enforcement (2, Funny)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284515)

It's getting to the point where law enforcement really needs to handle PC security. We have strict laws on what a car needs to go on the road, we really need equivalent rules about what a PC needs to connect to the Internet. I'd put something like Symantec or Mcafee as the equivalent of auto insurance, in terms of the damage it prevents to other computers on the internet. And like auto insurance, it needs to be mandatory (in addition to keeping things up to date against security threats, much like cars must keep up to safety and pollution standards.)

Re:Law enforcement (1)

n30na (1525807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284625)

Does car insurance make your car run worse? Would make more sense to have to submit yourself to some kind of vulnerability test, and there would still be lots of problems with that too.

Re:Law enforcement (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284713)

Car insurance costs less if you have a car that statistically is less likely to get in an accident and cause costly damage, or you yourself are less likely to do so, based on a few metrics.

Where's your equivalent functionality in antivirus?

Re:Law enforcement (1)

lavacano201014 (999580) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284877)

This would essentially force every internet-capable computer in the United States (assuming that's where you live) to run Microsoft Windows, as that is the only operating system that currently has anti-virus programs out on the market. And as everyone makes the switch, all companies are going to CONTINUE to make anti-virus programs for Windows only, thus none will exist for Linux/Mac. And since you can't install anti-virus for Linux/Mac at this point, it would pretty much make Linux/Mac illegal. Bad move limiting OSes there.

Re:Law enforcement (1)

n30na (1525807) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284945)

What about this [clamav.net] ?

Re:Law enforcement (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285501)

There are lots of antivirus programs for linux and a few for MAC'nix. Here is the F-prot version for linux but there are lots of stuff out there just to scan 'das mail system' so as to protect the Windows lusers. I suggest you try google next time mmm-k?

http://www.f-prot.com/products/home_use/linux/ [f-prot.com]

Re:Law enforcement (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284895)

even better would be to make OSs impervious to viruses & malware, and if the OS does not pass it is not legal to sell, or download or even be run on a networked PC (you hear that microsoft?) your OS would be deemed illegal because it is a vulnerable piece of crap, the only OSs that would pass today would be the BSDs'/Linuxes & Solaris

Re:Law enforcement (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28285101)

...and other lame OS's that are useless unless your job is writing PERL scripts for dungeons and dragons.

Re:Law enforcement (1)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285085)

It's getting to the point where law enforcement really needs to handle PC security. We have strict laws on what a car needs to go on the road, we really need equivalent rules about what a PC needs to connect to the Internet.

The difference, of course, is that an unsafe car can cause an accident in which people could die, whereas an 'unsafe' computer isn't going to kill anyone.
We will no doubt see laws that address computers and the internet, but they'll be related to porn, spam or some such aspect, not requiring anti-virus software.

XboX Live does this also. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28284545)

Since it is MS then it has to be wrong?

Re:XboX Live does this also. (1)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284695)

FALSE - My Xbox live account does not auto-renew. I only know it expired when I can't login to ranked Halo 3 games anymore because it says my account is invalid.

Ah yes... (2, Insightful)

binaryseraph (955557) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284597)

Nothing like taking pages from the porno industry M.O. Beautiful.

Home users shouldn't pay for Antivirus (5, Insightful)

pdragon04 (801577) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Read the fine print. . . (3, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285423)

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:Read the fine print. . . (1)

pdragon04 (801577) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285629)

Like I said, I service home users. I tell my users the limits to the free use and explicitly state on my website where I have links to download this software that it is free ONLY for personal home use. And for an example where I advise Clamwin for home use is mostly for gaming systems or situations where they need more performance from their computer than a typical user. Most people that are in that class of user are very receptive to additional advice and I set them up with Firefox. I install the plugins Adblock Plus and the Download Status Bar which lets you configure Clamwin to scan all downloads from the web. I also set Clamwin to run a full scan and tell them when then scan will run. The nice thing about running a small home service business is that I get to be very up close and personal with my customers. :)

Re:Read the fine print. . . (1)

ACMENEWSLLC (940904) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285683)

This is something that should seriously be open sourced. Sure, there are open source projects out there, but they are poorly updated.

Of all the work done on all the open source projects, it would be nice to see this going. Once you get the engine working, I'm sure there are enough viruses which the community would submit.

For the record, I do use Clamwin among others. I am aware the parent company that recently bought ClamAV is working on a real time scanner. And also that it misses things that my Nod32 or Symantec ESS will pick up. I am also aware of openantivirus.org and the fact that it's pattern files are from 2004.

Perhaps some of us need to fork and combine these and work with Virus Total to come up with some open source commercial real time AV?

Uh huh... (2, Insightful)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 5 years ago | (#28284743)

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.

Free Alternatives (5, Informative)

the_denman (800425) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285127)

There are plenty of free alternatives out there, I personally prefer AVG. Here [upeke.net] is an article laying the free options out for you.

Standard here in NL (3, Insightful)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28285533)

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!

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