Facebook users should tread carefully with McAfee offer

20 January, 2010

I see that Facebook has teamed up with McAfee to offer all users six months of free protection using McAfee’s Internet Security suite.   If my own experience is anything to go by, Facebook users would be well advised to approach such an offer with caution.

I’m not an expert on the technical aspects of anti-virus software, or the relative merits of different products.  But I believe McAfee uses unacceptable techniques to drive through annual renewal of their service once they have your credit card details.  They deliberately make it awkward to cancel the automatic renewal.

In the USA, McAfee and Symantec were heavily fined by the New York Attorney General for such dodgy behaviour:

The Attorney General conducted an extensive investigation into the online marketing and sales practices of Symantec and McAfee. The Attorney General’s investigation found that the companies failed to adequately disclose to consumers that subscriptions would be automatically renewed and that consumers would be charged for subsequent subscriptions. Information about automatic renewal charges was not clearly disclosed, but was instead hidden at the bottom of long webpages or in the fine print of license agreements……In addition, the investigation also revealed that both Symantec and McAfee made it difficult for consumers to contact the companies to opt out of automatic renewal or to request refunds for unauthorized credit card charges.

Under the terms of the Attorney General’s settlement, Symantec and McAfee will clearly disclose to consumers any automatic renewal program and provide an easy, transparent, and automated means to opt out of renewal. …….. Symantec and McAfee will also pay a combined $750,000 to the Attorney General’s office to settle all claims.

Whatever about the USA, in Europe I believe McAfee are still playing dirty on this, and the consumer protection authorities need to take a hard look at their practices.

I fought a long and tedious battle with McAfee to get a refund of a charge to my credit card.  Without getting into the detail, suffice to say that they do not make it easy for people to cancel automatic renewal, and if you fail to cancel properly within a defined time period, they will fight you tooth and nail to avoid refunding the automatic charge.

You have been warned!

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