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Anti-virus skulduggery - upgrade licence clock shock slammed

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Anti-virus vendors AVG and Symantec have been criticised for sharp practices in selling consumer antivirus upgrades.

Every year security vendors bring out new versions of their products with improved engines and better technologies (behaviour blocking, improved speed performance and cloud-based-detection, for example). Marketing emails or product pop-ups from Symantec (which markets its Norton line of security software to consumers) and AVG encourage users to upgrade at a discount – but with an allegedly hidden catch.

If consumers upgrade early in response to these emails, they lose the remaining licence period for their existing software. A Which? investigation said that although AVG and Symantec reset the clocks when users upgrade, the practice is not uniform across the industry. Other vendors, such as Panda Security, transfer across the remaining licensing period.

Meanwhile, McAfee said it doesn't send out reminders about upgrading until users' yearly subscriptions are about to expire.

Symantec defended its practices, arguing that the conclusions reached by Which? were misleading because they ignored the warnings it provides to consumers who upgrade early, among other reasons.

Symantec considers Which? Computing’s press release entitled “Anti-virus companies’ antisocial practices” misleading to customers for several reasons.

Firstly, Which? has not clarified the distinction between product upgrades and subscription renewals, and we believe the press release may mislead customers into believing that they will lose subscription time when they renew their current product or download the latest version of their product.

Secondly, Which? suggests incorrectly that customers who upgrade to a different product prior to the expiration of the time remaining on their existing product subscription are not informed that any time remaining on their existing product subscriptions will not be added to their upgrade.

Symantec gives customers the option of renewing their Norton product subscriptions or purchasing upgrade products containing additional security features.

More details on the Which? investigation can be found here. ®

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