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Real Networks will refund $2m to grumpy punters

Fesses up to 'disappointing' customers with pre-clicked boxes for 'free' trials

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Real Networks has agreed to hand over US$2.0m to satisfy disgruntled customers, who were railroaded into buying content thanks to pre-clicked boxes in web forms or “free” offers that nonetheless requested credit card details and did not make recurring costs plain.

Consumers who, upon realising their error, requested refunds, found it hard to squeeze any cash from the company. Complaints eventually mounted and Washington State’s Better Business Bureau and State Attorney General took it off to court, resulting in the $2.0m payment order announced yesterday.

“Deceptive pre-checked boxes and fine print obligated consumers to not-so-free trials for subscription services they didn’t want in the first place,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. “People were charged for months — sometimes years — paying hundreds of dollars for subscriptions they knew nothing about.”

Real Networks insists, in this statement, that “ … we disagree with the complaint …” in part because it had already abandoned pre-ticked boxes by the time of the lawsuit.

The statement goes on to “ … acknowledge that some aspects of RealNetworks' e-commerce practices were not what our customers expected of us. More importantly, those practices were not up to the high standards we expect of ourselves.

The company will therefore flagellate itself to the tune of $2m in refunds to aggrieved punters and hand over $400,000 for legal fees. It has also established www.realnetworksrestitution.com to help aggrieved parties claim cash and published a customer Bill of Rights to spell out how it will deal with us all in future. ®

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