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McAfee sued over third-party pop-up pitches

Consumer pair take issue with 'deceptive' sales tactics

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Security software maker McAfee is being sued over alleged sneaky tactics in promoting third-party services to consumers buying its anti-virus technology.

A lawsuit seeking class-action status and filed by two California women, Melissa Ferrington and Cheryl Schmidt, takes issue with pop-up ads for McAfee partners that appear when users install the security firm's software. Customers buying McAfee security software are reportedly confronted with a pop-up with a large "Try It Now" message during the download process. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that users might easily think the pop-up is for McAfee's software but is actually for one-click internet purchase technology from Arpu, which costs $4.95 per month. Other third-party add-ons from other McAfee affiliates are sold in a similar (allegedly misleading) way during the download process.

"A single click on the deceptive pop-up causes the purchase of an unwanted product from Arpu, a sale made without the knowledge or authorisation of customers, using credit/debit card billing information that they have entrusted solely to McAfee," the lawsuit charges, Computerworld reports.

Arpu's site acknowledges its affiliate relationship with McAfee. "McAfee partnered with ARPU in September 2007 with the goal of increasing their profitability by selling additional products to their customers," Arpu explains. "Now, whenever a McAfee customer completes a purchase on McAfee.com, an ad will appear for a related product or service. Interested customers can choose to subscribe to the product or service using the billing method just entered in their recent McAfee.com purchase. This convenience to the customer streamlines the purchase flow and increases the overall conversion rate."

Ferrington and Schmidt were billed each $4.95 per month via credit card for PerfectDisk Live, an online disk defragmentation service sold by Raxco Software, a service neither wanted. The lawsuit against McAfee seeks an end to the marketing practice, compensation for the litigants and punitive damages. It also accuses McAfee of breaching US consumer protection laws. Schmidt claims McAfee refused to help her cancel the Arpu charge when she called to complain.

A McAfee spokesman told The Reg that it was "reviewing the matter and don't have any comment on this pending litigation at this time". ®

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