McAfee -- a company that made its name providing computer security products -- tricks consumers into buying services from an unrelated third party, and gives out their banking information to complete those purchases, according to a recently-filed lawsuit.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, says that consumers who purchase security products directly from McAfees website are presented with a misleading pop-up display [that] leads them to unwittingly enroll in subscription-based services offered by a third party, Arpu Inc.
According to the suit, McAfee transmits customer credit/debit card and billing information to Arpu Inc. and receives an undisclosed fee for each consumer.
The suit alleges that McAfee fails to tell customers that they are signing up for a subscription-based service, the terms and conditions of that service, or how they can go about canceling the subscription. Additionally, customers are billed in a manner that makes the monthly $4.95 charge hard to detect, track, and terminate.
The suit quotes Arpus website as claiming that the company places ads enabl[ing] consumers to purchase products or services from an online ad with a single click, using credit card information already on file. More damning, the website notes that Arpu and McAfee partnered in 2007 in an effort to increase the latters profitability.
Now, whenever a McAfee customer completes a purchase on McAfee.com, an ad will appear for a related product or service, the site reads, according to the complaint. Interested consumers can choose to subscribe to the product or service using the billing method just entered in their recent McAfee.com purchase.
To the contrary, the suit says that consumers have no idea that theyre signing up for anything, and that McAfee disguises the purchase as just another step in the process of downloading McAfee software.
After the consumer purchases software, but before she begins downloading it, she is presented with a red button reading Try It Now, according to the suit. The pop-up provides no warning that clicking on Try It Now will lead not to the delivery of the McAfee product but rather to the purchase of a completely different product, the complaint says. Instead, all of the obvious visual cues suggest that Try It Now is a necessary step in downloading the McAfee software.
While the pop-up technically contains a disclosure that a third party is involved in the transaction, that notice is set in nearly illegible gray 6 point type set against a gray background, according to the complaint. Further, the terms of service are not provided anywhere on the pop-up.
The suit is brought as a class action on behalf of [a]ll persons in the United States who purchased products or services from McAfee Incorporated and were subsequently charged by a third party for unused and unclaimed products and services after McAfee transferred their credit/debit card and other billing information to the third-party.