Office Depot and a partner company tricked customers into buying unneeded tech support services by offering PC scans that gave fake results, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers paid up to $300 each for unnecessary services.
The FTC yesterday announced that Office Depot and its software supplier, Support.com, have agreed to pay a total of $35 million in settlements with the agency. Office Depot agreed to pay $25 million while Support.com will pay the other $10 million. The FTC said it intends to use the money to provide refunds to wronged consumers.
Between 2009 and 2016, Office Depot and OfficeMax offered computer scans inside their stores using a “PC Health Check” software application created and licensed by Support.com.
“Defendants bilked unsuspecting consumers out of tens of millions of dollars from their use of the PC Health Check program to sell costly diagnostic and repair services,” the FTC alleged in a complaint that accuses both companies of violating the FTC Act’s prohibition against deceptive practices. As part of the settlements, neither company admitted or denied the FTC’s allegations.
The FTC filed its complaint against the companies in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, while at the same time unveiling the settlements with each company.
“[W]hile Office Depot claimed the program detected malware symptoms on consumers’ computers, the actual results presented to consumers were based entirely on whether consumers answered ‘yes’ to four questions they were asked at the beginning of the PC Health Check program,” the FTC said. “These included questions about whether the computer ran slow, received virus warnings, crashed often, or displayed pop-up ads or other problems that prevented the user from browsing the Internet.”
PC Health Check “tricked those consumers into thinking their computers had symptoms of malware or actual ‘infections,’ even though the scan hadn’t found any such issues,” the FTC said in a blog post. “Many consumers who got false scan results bought computer diagnostic and repair services from Office Depot and OfficeMax that cost up to $300. Suppport.com completed the services and got a cut of each purchase.”
Of course, as a part of the settlement, “Office Depot neither admits nor denies any of the allegations in the Complaint,” which sucks wet farts from dead pigeons.
Seriously, it would be great if these settlement were required by law to have an admission of wrongdoing.