Symantec, McAfee settle over subscription auto-renewal problems

By Justin Mann on June 10, 2009, 5:40 PM
Symantec and McAfee will be coughing up a chunk of change, following a settlement that arose out of complaints regarding how each of them handled their customer's subscriptions. As anyone who uses paid security products is aware of, each year you must pay a renewal fee to keep your software functioning. According to the involved plaintiffs, however, both Symantec and McAfee were deceptive when it came time to pay, renewing people's subscriptions without their consent.

This most likely would become a big issue if someone decided to switch products, only to find themselves being billed by another company later. Due to problems like this and the complaints that followed, the companies will each pay $375,000 to settle the case. The Attorney General's office in New York came to the conclusion that the "automatic renewals" clauses were buried under lengthy terms of service, and ordered Symantec and McAfee to be clear and up-front with their customers when it comes to these fees. Furthermore, users will get the option of a refund for up to 60 days after being charged.

User Comments: 28

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Guest said:

I was a customer of Mcafee for three years, and finally ditched them after (3) $129 automatic renewals before I noticed it on my credit card. This crooked scam was set up by mcafee, another TX company screwing the pulic, just like that other TX company (ENRON) did.

I'm sure they both felt safe from prosecution , as long as the Bush's were running the country and were protecting them. God knows they paid enough in "donations" for that protection.

T77 T77 said:

dump these paid ones & go in for free ones

Guest said:

It's NOv 24, 2009 and McAfee is still up to their old ways of deception. I just received an e-mail stating that my credit account is bding charged 79.99 for a one year automatic renewal. I'm not playing games with them. Sending a written notice to my credit card company tomorrow contesting the charges with a cc; to the State Attorney General of Virginia.

IN addtion I sent McAfee a "Cease and Desist" e-mail telling to immediatley stop.

GACrabill said:

With so many excellent FREE anti-virus products available, I am still surprised by people who buy an AV product. These same folks will spend hours on the internet but don't seem to know how to do a Google search.

My neighbor got his credit card automatically charged for a Norton 360 renewal and now he will never buy another Norton or Symantec product ... and none of his friends and co-workers will either.

I swear that there are ****** running these companies. They seem to be very good at alienating their customers and very poor at delivering a reputable product.

Aolish Aolish said:

With so many excellent FREE anti-virus products available, I am still surprised by people who buy an AV product. These same folks will spend hours on the internet but don't seem to know how to do a Google search.

I don't think its because of them not knowing about it, but more towards... "FREE" being NOT as good as for a paid one. I've talked to numerous ppl that think the PAIED ones are better simply because "you get what you paied for". Many ppl feel that the free ones aren't as good as detecting viruses as the paied ones.

Guest said:

McAfee is still continuing to charge when no service is provided (11/30/09). I just checked my credit card account today and noticed a charge for 39.99. It turns out I've been paying this for the last 4 years! I haven't used the software since 2005. I have no problem paying for services I'm using, but when I'm surreptitiously being signed up for a service I don't use, and I am not notified of, I believe that's tantamount to thievery. Lesson learned. Keep an eye on your credit card statements and don't use McAfee.

As an aside I discovered earlier this year that Amazon had done something similar by signing me up for an upgraded shipping service, that I didn't ask for either, and charged me $80. I maybe order 1 thing a year from Amazon, so not exactly something I'd be interested. Check those statements.

compdata compdata, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Why doesn't everyone use the free Microsoft Security Essentials? Works great for me with much less annoyance then AVG or Avast.

claycc said:

I stay away from anything that automatically renews without your consent (magazines, software, etc.). This kind of stuff makes me want to stick with AVG. Works great and is free.

Guest said:

There are thousands of fake anti viruses so beware while choosing any free anti-virus. i would personally recommend for Norton AV , FREE nahee Sabse Achcha..

Devendra <>

Guest said:

I just received an auto-renewal notice from McAfee for VirusScan Plus. The renewal term was to begin in early April 2010. This was after I paid for what I thought was an electronic renewal notice in August 2009 (I know I should have checked my own records before renewing!). I contacted customer service--someone apparently in India--about the issue, making the essential complaint that I have been paying for two simultaneous licenses since August. The rep first tried to assert that I had gotten two separate licenses for two separate computers, but he could only come up with a recorded ID for one computer. The rep finally agreed to cancel the auto-renewal account and stated that he would provide a manual renewal notice in August 2010 for the second account. When I asked him repeatedly about getting some kind of reimbursement for what amounts to about 6 months of double coverage, the best he could do was extend the August 2010 renewal for another 30 days. Do I feel ripped off? You bet!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

We can all hope that the new "Microsoft Security Essentials" turns out to be effective at combating malware. That might force the aftermarket houses rethink their marketing strategy.

I hate to say this, but it seems like M$ has done something positive for the Windows user.

BTW, how much money do you people have that you can ignore/ overlook $80.00+ dollar charges on you credit card statements?

Guest said:

After being disappointed by several "paid" antivirus programs/security suites including Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky & Vipre, I decided to try Microsoft Security Essentials when it was released a few months ago and I've found it to be at least as good if not better than any of the "paid" antivirus offerings. While MSE's layout may be visually basic, it does what it's supposed to do without needless bells & whistles.... the more elbows you install in your plumbing, the easier it is to clog up your drain.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

There are thousands of fake anti viruses so beware while choosing any free anti-virus. i would personally recommend for Norton AV , FREE nahee Sabse Achcha..

Devendra <>


Guest said:

Yeah, I just got a renewal notice for a McAfee trial product on my Microsoft Home Server. Their website has a checkbox to opt out of the auto-renewal program but you can't uncheck it. What a bunch of scammers! McAfee lost a lot of customers due to their recent update that crashed XP computers. I hope they disappear off the face of the Earth. Losers!

Guest said:

I had my McAfee 3-user account renew automatically - again with my 'knowing' consent - as in, I wasn't called, emailed or prompted by my McAfee security centre icon/program.

I returned from a week away and explained that whilst I was delighted with the software, and, after reading on the internet that the 'auto-renewal' was in very small print, I objected to this process of McAfee just simply taking my money.

In past years - last year for example, I was prompted and reminded that my software would expire in XX days and once it expired I was reminded to renew. So, I clicked on the link. To my surprise the renewal price was very competitive - about £16-£19 GBP if I remember with the option to increase from a 2 to 3-user account for another £5. So all in all, I paid about £23-£25 GBP (I can't remember exactly) to get another 12months, this time I could cover my 3rd PC/laptop.

So, I called McAfee UK - 020 79490107 - and spoke to a very helpful American girl. Within minutes of me explaining how I felt, that I was happy with the software and last year's renewal price, I wasn't happy with the auto-renewal - especially 30 DAYS IN ADVANCE OF IT EXPIRING?!

I appreciate what McAfee are trying to do - protect your PC from viruses etc with no gaps in renewal - but surely 30 days is plenty of notice to advise customers they need to renew (if they wish to - after all, there are other products on the market!)

She said I'd get a refund and matched to the best of her ability last year's price saying I'd get 50% discount costing me £24.99 GBP.

I accepted this but got slightly concerned that my original 'auto renewal' fee was £53.89? Like you, I know that 50% off £53.89 is NOT £24.99 - so, had I been charged more in the first place?

It didn't matter - I was happy with £34.00 GBP for a 3-user account of their 'Internet Security' package.

I finished by saying that I thought it was wrong that they just took my money, especially 30 days in advance of it expiring anyway - and said that an email/phone call/on-screen prompt reminder 30 days in advance would be plenty in any furture instance. This had happened to me last year so why just the auto-renewal this year? (Ah, yes, because I'd excepted the small print).

So - I suggest you give it a go. Give them a call and explain if it's happened to you. The girl I spoke to was very effiecient - and said it must have been upsetting for me to realise my money had just been taken - so, McAfee are obviously aware that customers are not happy. And, at a guess, perhaps the Call Centre workers have been told they are able to offer discounts as the bosses at McAfee are aware that customers will be calling with uhhappy auto-renewals?

Also - she de-activated my auto-renewal and said I'd get an email/on-screen prompt in future - which I ;m much happier with.

Sorry this is a bit long - but I wanted you to know my story in case your instance was very similar!

As Martin Lewis the UK Money Expert says - we, the customer have to keep on top of where our money is going with all these companies!

Guest said:

I was automatically renewed on Sept 22 and charged double the online price! I too was unaware that they could charge me without my consent. I guess this makes me another FORMER customer. I will try the MS product.

Guest said:

Yes Mcafee auto renewal scam

I was victim to this too. My anti virus cover expired with them on the 21st October 2010 but the credit card i used to purchase the software with them expired in August 2010. They sent me at least 10 emails to say that my credit card for auto renewal was going to expire before the 21st October 2010 and that i should supply them with my new card details to avoid interuption of the service.

I did not do this as i did not require the service!!

However the cheeky buggers assumed that the replacement card would have the same card number (normal) and guessed a new expiry date and charged me without my authorisation. Is this legal? I doubt it!!

Guest said:

Another victim of auto renewal.

I have auto-renewed (or at least clicked something to renew) for about 3 or 4 years. Each year Ive paid about £30. Fine for me. This year it came through on the credit card as £65.

I asked.

"Autorenew is charged at the standard price - but I can give you 50% off if you like"

Rather than a 50% discount for having a moan, it sounds like a 100% penalty for being loyal.

A very dishonest and foolhardy way to run a business if you ask me. They can add me to the pile of loyal customers who they've alienated

Guest said:

I just saw a 11-22-10 charge on my cc of $79.99 from Called my cc company, filed a dispute form. All I need now is a class action lawyer to sue McAfee. Please let me know if another lawsuit is being discussed, I want to add my name to it.

Guest said:

I too have been billed by mcaffee for an automatic update. It would have been nice if they would have warned me a month ago that I was going to be facing these charges. The only good thing about this is they sent me an email verifying that they had charged my account, however the charge had not yet gone through. Althought I had 60 days to get the refund, I immediatly contacted their customer service via webchat. The person I talked to was very helpful, and I have my fingers crossed that all goes well. They said I would receive a survey from them as well...I'm hoping to tell them basically everything I said here. They definitely need a better system.

Guest said:

I received an email from McAfee telling me that my subscription was going to run out in 30 days also, but that my CC information was not current and they could not auto renew, and that I needed to call them and give them the new CC #. I never called them. 30 days later I see a charge on my new bank card for $79.99! I called them the next day when they were open and the person on the phone said that they worked with my banking institution to get the new info. I like their product so i just said ok I will not ask for a refund but let it be known I am not happy about how easy it was for you to get my new number.

Guest said:

We are the victims of the Mcafee's cheat, theft, robery. I am very angry with mcafee who charged me without my consent. I can be killed because of anger and pressure. We must sue the mcafee. Lets us do it now. Mcafee is a theft; a low class theft with the theft of the high technical activities. Lets stop it now. Shoiw me the way how to sue it.

Guest said:

I turned off McAfee's auto renewal and guess what they charged my account $96. They said it might have been a problem with the internet the caused the auto renew to turn back on. Refund in 5 business days. Great so tell me McAfee how do I get my prescriptions filled while I am waiting for you to refund what you illegally took from me?

Guest said:

I cancelled my subscription to McAfee after they charged my credit card 30 days before my subscription was to expire. There is no reason they couldn't wait until the actual expiry date.

SGC said:

Guest said:

I cancelled my subscription to McAfee after they charged my credit card 30 days before my subscription was to expire. There is no reason they couldn't wait until the actual expiry date.

Same issue, I was charged yesterday £80.64 for the renewal of a product that I removed from my pc two years ago. The worst thing is that it seems impossible to contact anyone at customer service who is willing to help. They just keep transfering me from one service to another untill the lines cuts or untill I get tired. Does anyone knows how to contact them by email or by post? If the 60 days period for a refund is legal, did that work for anyone?

nedster1 said:

My McAfee profile shows an expired credit card, I purposely didn't advise them of the new details thinking they wouldn't be able to act on the renewal but they were still able to bill my credit card and my bank let them. Seem like some Aust banks allow Government departments, insurance companies and companies like McAfee to do this.

Have been told McAfee will issue a credit, will follow it up but very annoyed that my bank let them bill to an expired card.

Guest said:


7-14-11 San Jose, CA

On July 2, I was charged $44.99 by Symantec for a Norton product that was out of date and not downloaded for years. Why?

Because my e-mail address had changed. GEE, THAT NEVER HAPPENS!!

Symantec needs to be sued again. They are still practicing deceptive renewal tactics to collect windfall profits. They are collecting money without confirming that any goods were delivered.

Does that sound like good and fair business practice? By the way, credit card companys will turn over NEW numbers on established accounts if vendors simply ask for updated information. In other words, you can let your credit card on file with the software vendor expire and the vendor will STILL be able to charge you. ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS CALL YOUR CREDIT PROVIDER. Thank you McAfee and American Express.

Word to the wise: Review your credit card statements like a hawk, especially if you are doing business with internet security software companies.

AND eschew and/or cancel ALL Auto Renewal agreements.

Guest said:

This is still happening. I signed on in January, 2011 for the basic service at $37.09. I have since bought a new computer and don't use their service. I had the auto-renewal turned off. I received an email this past week that I was automatically renewed and my credit card was charged. They charged me $84.79 for the next year!!!??? Luckily, went the online chat and got the charge removed on the same day. But what the heck? No only renewing when I checked the box for "Auto-renewal Off", but charging me more than double. The "chat" lady sure did her best questioning what program I was going to use etc. It wasn't easy to convince her to remove the charge.

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