Symantec, McAfee Reach Settlement with N.Y. AG over Probe

Symantec and McAfee both agree to pay a fine and change their procedures in response to a probe by the New York attorney general's office. According to investigators, Symantec and McAfee failed to adequately notify customers about the terms of the subscription renewal process and charged customers without their consent.

Security software vendors McAfee and Symantec have agreed to pay $375,000 apiece as part of a settlement with the New York Attorney General's office, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced June 10.

At issue were accusations that the companies renewed customers' software subscriptions without customers' knowledge or authorization. In addition to the payment, both companies agreed to make detailed disclosures to consumers about subscription terms and renewal.

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"Companies cannot play hide the ball when it comes to the fees consumers are being charged," Cuomo said in a statement. "Consumers have a right to know what they are paying, especially when they are unwittingly agreeing to renewal fees that will not appear on their credit card bill for months. Symantec and McAfee-two of the nation's largest vendors of computer security software-will now have to be clear and up front with their customers when it comes to renewal fees. In other words, no more hide the ball with renewal fees."

The attorney general's office reported receiving complaints from customers who bought Symantec and McAfee software over the Internet and later had their credit cards charged for subscription renewals without their authorization. The subsequent investigation found the companies failed to "adequately disclose" to consumers that subscriptions would be automatically renewed and they would be charged.

Under the agreement, the companies will provide electronic notification to consumers before and after renewal of the subscription and will provide refunds to consumers who request them within 60 days of being charged.

"We have worked hard over the last two years to improve our auto-renewal subscription process to make it more transparent and visible for our customers," a Symantec spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. "We have improved our disclosures to ensure that the auto-renewal process is clear to our customers, specifically making the ability to opt out of the auto-renewal feature more clear and accessible. We will continue to work in the future to comply with the office of New York 's attorney general to make sure their concerns are fully addressed."