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Clampdown on anti-virus software auto-renewal

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Customers whose McAfee contracts auto-renewed will be able to end their contract and seek a refund for the remaining months.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) secured the refund rights for McAfee customers as part of its investigation into the anti-virus software sector.

McAfee customers whose contract auto-renewed for another year will now be able to end their contract and get a refund for the rest of the year if they no longer want the anti-virus software. This new refund right will also be backdated for people who were previously refused a refund in 2020.

McAfee’s existing refund policy covers customers whose contracts had already been auto-renewed by allowing them to request a full refund of the auto-renewal fee for a period of 60 days from the date the fee is taken.

Following the CMA’s action, after this full refund window, consumers can seek a partial refund of the auto-renewal fee in proportion to the amount of the contract that is outstanding at the point at which the refund is requested. This will be calculated on a monthly basis.

The request for a partial refund can be made until the end of the penultimate month of the contract period covered by the fee. This new right for consumers is available now.

McAfee has also committed to making the process for turning off auto-renewal more straightforward in the future. The CMA has also told it to provide clearer pricing information upfront, for example by making clear that the auto-renewal price in the second year is higher than the price paid for the software in the first year.

McAfee will also locate important information about how to turn off automatic renewal and obtain a refund more prominently on its website and in emails sent to customers.

The investigation into the anti-virus software sector was launched in response to the loyalty penalty ‘super-complaint’ from Citizens Advice about long term customers overpaying for key services. The CMS had concerns that some anti-virus software companies’ terms and practices may be unfair and could result in UK customers paying for services they no longer want or need.

The regulator opened its investigation into the anti-virus software sector in November 2018 and has now been concluded with the CMA accepting undertakings from McAfee Ireland Ltd. These undertakings have been provided to the CMA voluntarily and without any admission of wrongdoing or liability.

McAfee is the first company to agree undertakings with the CMA as part of its wider programme of work looking into subscription contracts in the anti-virus software and online video gaming sectors.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said: “People should not be tied into auto-renewing contracts for products they no longer want or need. Because of our investigation, it will be easier for McAfee’s customers to get money back if a contract renews when they didn’t want it to.

“Subscriptions should be clearly described, easy to exit and customers should not be tied into ongoing auto-renewals without adequate refund rights. Companies who use auto-renewals unfairly risk action from the CMA.”