The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday said Office Depot and a technical support company will cough up a collective $ 35 million to settle the agency over claims that were both involved in a computer repair system involving a false malware scan.
Using a program called PC Health Check, the FTC claimed in its complaint that Office Depot, its subsidiary OfficeMax, and its service provider Support.com ran a program that apparently did a sweep of malicious software on customers' computers, but in reality it was solely the affirmative answers given in an associated quadruple questionnaire. Essentially, the complaint stated that the program did not do so, and did so and was instead designed to mark seemingly malicious software when respondents responded "yes" to the questions.
The questions asked by the PC Health Check program included whether a person's machine crashed frequently, was slow, showed pop-up ads, or detected virus alerts. If anyone checked some of the boxes on these questions, the program asked them to buy expensive technical solutions for the issues that could run hundreds of dollars per single service.
Per complaint, Office Depot and OfficeMax instructed their business staff to "offer to run the PC Health Check Program on any computer that a consumer brought into a store." The service took consumers out of hundreds of millions of dollars in services and repairs, FTC said.
The complaint said Office Depot and Support.com operated the fake malware scanning system from 2009 to November 2016 – when a report from the CBS affiliate KIRO 7 flag exercise – despite knowing for years that PC Health Check produced false malware and virus reports and despite employee complaints about the program.
In an example stated by the FTC, an OfficeMax employee in 2012 reported to the company's senior management that they c not just "justify lying to a customer or being disappointed to lie to them for our store to do some extra" dollars. "
If all this was not already harmful enough, the complaint said that Office Depot told its stores in 2013 not to carry out a PC health check after repairs, explicitly that "the tool" assumes "there is an infection based on questions that are asked. " In other words, it clearly knew that the program could increase some red flags if it repeatedly produced the same reviews even after computers were serviced.
Office Depot will pay $ 25 million, while Support.com will pay an additional $ 10 million to settle in the FTC, money the agency said it plans to use to repay the victims of the deceptive malware scheme. Office Depot did not immediately return a request for comment.
FTC chairman Joe Simons said in a statement that "the case should send a strong message to companies that they will face rigid consequences if they use deceit to trick consumers into buying expensive services they may not need." hope so.
[Federal Trade Commission]