by: Lynn A. Toops, Attorney
The computer software industry is a multibillion dollar industry. Most computers sold today, whether for business or personal use, include a basic operating system along with a few programs. Consumers often purchase additional software to customize their machines to meet their business or personal needs. This software is often made available via downloadable disk or via subscription service. The software as a service (SaaS) industry has been growing in popularity because it pushes regular updates to subscribers, which ensures that users always have current technology.
Computer security packages are a very popular SaaS product. In fact, the term security-as-a-service is often used for the subset of software that pertains to anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-spam software subscription services. Some common security-as-a-service providers include McAfee, Cisco, Bitdefender, Trend Micro, Symantec, and Kaspersky.
One trend that has interested consumers is the “auto-renewal” option that a lot of SaaS products feature. Many of these companies, like McAfee, market auto-renewal as an easy way for consumers to keep their service activated and be charged the same price as if they manually renew their subscription. However, online customer service forums and complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau suggest something different.
A major complaint about subscription auto-renewals is that many consumers did not realize they were enrolled in this service. Companies like Bitdefender, as a default, set up new customer subscriptions to automatically renew by charging the credit card the customer has on file. Many of these customers are not aware the service has been activated. Instead, at the end of their subscription, they often find a new charge on their credit card for the new term.
In addition to not realizing their account is scheduled to automatically renew, many customers have been charged a higher rate than what is charged to manual renewal customers and new purchasers.
Justice for Consumers
Class action lawsuits have been filed against some of these software companies for deceptive business practices. These types of lawsuits are usually the most effective means for a group of victims to band together and have their collective voice heard against large corporations. More information about investigations of this nature can be found here.
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