McAfee Sued For Marketing 'Scareware'
Antivirus company McAfee has been hit with a potential class-action lawsuit for allegedly duping Web users into purchasing "Registry Power Cleaner" software.
New Jersey resident Jennifer Bilodeau alleges in court papers that McAfee markets the registry-cleaning software via online ads that offer free diagnostic scans of users' computers. The scans allegedly always find that the computers are at "high risk" for problems, Bilodeau says.
"The unfortunate truth is that, rather than actually performing any meaningful assessment of a computer's condition, Registry Power Cleaner was designed to invariably -- and ominously -- report that harmful errors and problems are afflicting a user's PC," she alleges in her complaint, filed late last week in federal court in San Jose, Calif.
She says in her legal papers that a computer forensics expert tested the software and concluded that it always reports numerous errors, even when scanning a brand new computer system. "It follows then, that even Registry Power Booster users with new PCs would be informed that hundreds of errors exist on and are harming their system's status, placing it at 'high risk,'" she alleges.
Bilodeau alleges that the Registry Power Cleaner software is manufactured by the company Capital Intellect, but that McAfee has a deal with Capital to endorse, market and sell the program. Bilodeau also named Capital Intellect as a defendant in the case.
She says the companies are violating California's consumer protection laws.
The lawsuit is part of a recent wave of scareware cases brought as potential class-actions by attorney Jay Edelson. One software vendor that was sued, Ascentive, agreed in March to a $9.6 million settlement. In that case, Ascentive said it would allow people who purchased its software to put in claims for refunds of either $10 or $18, depending on how many products they purchased.
Ascentive also promised to revise its disclosures to consumers, as well as its refund policies. The company didn't admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement.
A separate lawsuit by a consumer against Symantec was recently dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer, who ruled that the allegations were too vague because the consumer didn't include Symantec's verbatim ads in his complaint. The consumer in that case filed new papers two weeks ago.