McAfee and Symantec fined over automatic subscription renewal
The New York State Attorney General has ordered anti-virus vendors McAfee and Symantec to pay a total of $750,000 in penalties and to reform their business practices. The companies have been penalised because of their policy of automatically renewing anti-virus subscriptions. Updates, particularly of the virus malware signature files, are sold on a yearly subscriptions basis. McAfee and Symantec's policy has been to automatically renew subscriptions for customers that purchased their products online using a credit card. The companies justification for their renewal policy is that it ensures customers aren't left unprotected from the latest threats if they don't manage to renew their subscriptions on time. According to the Attorney General, the vendors simply debited the fee to credit cards without notifying customers or obtaining their permission.
Although McAfee's UK site, for example, states that "Any paid subscriptions will automatically be registered with McAfee's Always-on-Protection program; this also includes the automatic renewal of your account, which ensures uninterrupted anti-virus protection. Without the automatic renewal you will be left unprotected when the licence expires. Customers are made aware of this when purchasing a subscription on the website." The US Attorney General, however, thinks that the relevant information is not made visible enough.
According to the report, Symantec and McAfee now intend to change their practices, display the automatic renewal information more prominently and offer an easily accessible way of cancelling the subscription renewal. In future, customers are to be notified of a pending renewal. In the UK, McAfee already offers the option of cancelling the automatic renewal to its UK customers.