The retail company and their software supplier, Support.com, have been charged with multi-million dollar fines, for using malwares to cheat customers
Office depot is one of the largest retailers in the US, with a valuation of over US$ 300 billion. In 2012, reports surfaced that the company was using malware, to persuade prospective buyers into buying their anti-virus software, which they developed in alliance with tech company, Support.com. Now, the Federal Trade Commission has found that the company was making use of the malware, till late 2016, despite the scam being exposed. Owing to this the company has been hit with a fine of US$ 35 million.
Office Depot and Office Max, a company which merged with Office Depot in 2013, were both found to be making use of the defective software. The software, called “PC Health Check”, was disguised as a PC diagnostics tool. The FTC found that the program was rigged to display a virus or malware in a computer, if a user answer ‘yes’, to any one of four trivial questions, which the program asked the user. The program would then redirect the users to expensive anti-virus products, developed by Office Max and Support.com. Many unsuspecting customers were scammed into buying these products, costing hundreds of dollars for one issue.
The fine has been split between the two companies, with Office Depot agreeing to pay US$ 25 million, while Support.com, will pay the remainder of US$ 10 million. The FTC states that the fines, will be used to refund the customers, who have fallen prey to the scheme. “Consumers have a hard enough time protecting their computers from malware, viruses, and other threats. This case should send a strong message to companies that they will face stiff consequences if they use deception to trick consumers into buying costly services they may not need.” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons as he announced the fine