A company that markets spyware removal software has agreed to pay $78,000 and also issue refunds to Washington state residents to settle an investigation into deceptive advertising practices by the Washington Attorney General.
The Philadelphia-based Ascentive, which did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, also agreed that it will not "deceptively" misrepresent to consumers that their computers are at risk of running slowly unless they purchase Ascentive's software.
The company allegedly tricked Web users into purchasing products by banner ads, emails and pop-ups, according to the Attorney General's complaint. What's more, Ascentive, which sells software at FinallyFast.com, allegedly offered users programs that were supposed to conduct free scans of their computers, but that actually sent ads to users asking them to make purchases, according to the complaint.
"In effect, defendant, without the consumer's knowledge or consent, surreptitiously installs an advertising program on the consumer's computer when the consumer installs the free scan software," the complaint asserts. "The free scan software has other surprise features, such as launching excessive pop-up warnings/reminders of the status of the consumer's computer, misrepresenting the status of the user's computer ... and nagging alerts upon boot-up of the computer."
This case isn't Ascentive's first brush with controversy. In 2009, the company sued Google for trademark infringement because Google allegedly allowed other companies to use Ascentive's trademarks to trigger pay-per-click search ads. Ascentive also alleged that Google wrongly removed the company from the organic results listings.
Several weeks after filing suit, Ascentive dropped the case. A company lawyer said at the time that Ascentive intended to target the businesses that were purchasing its trademarks as ad triggers rather than Google.
Ascentive did not respond to Online Media Daily's request for comment about the Washington case.