McAfee to refund customers following CMA auto-renew probe

Investigation found that long-term users of the antivirus software were being charged higher prices than new customers

McAfee is being forced to refund customers following a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into its auto-renewal scheme.

The watchdog had been looking into the subscription contracts offered by the antivirus software and online video gaming sectors since November 2018, following a 'super-complaint' filed by Citizens Advice. 

The non-profit organisation, which represents consumer rights, argued that long-term customers were being penalised by companies such as McAfee by being charged higher prices than new customers. They had also been locked into auto-renewing contracts with no easy way of terminating them.

After a two-year-long probe, the CMA has stated that the process for turning off auto-renewal needs to be made more straightforward for McAfee customers, and has ordered the antivirus provider to make sure that customers whose contract auto-renews for another year are able to end their contract and obtain a refund for the remaining months.

McAfee will also have to reimburse customers who were refused compensation in 2020.

In addition, the specifics of McAfee's pricing will have to be made more comprehensible, with the company having to be more clear about the fact that "the auto-renewal price in the second year is higher than the price paid when the antivirus product was first purchased".

Information on how to turn off the automatically renewing subscription, as well as instructions on obtaining a refund, will have to be more prominently displayed on McAfee's website as well as in the emails sent to customers.

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Commenting on the findings of the investigation, CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said "subscriptions should be clearly described, easy to exit and customers should not be tied into ongoing auto-renewals without adequate refund rights". 

"Companies who use auto-renewals unfairly risk action from the CMA," he added. "People should not be tied into auto-renewing contracts for products they no longer want or need. Because of our investigation, it will be easier for McAfee's customers to get money back if a contract renews when they didn't want it to. The CMA stated that the company has "agreed to make further changes to its website and communications with customers to improve clarity, which will be made within the coming months". The antivirus provider has also agreed to "provide regular reports to the CMA as to their customers' experience of ending auto-renewal and seeking refunds".

A spokesperson for McAfee told IT Pro that the company "is pleased to have reached agreement with the CMA on [their] shared goal of improving the ease, fairness and transparency of business-to-consumer practices and policies".

"Our work with the CMA aligned with our efforts to enable customers to maintain ongoing protection while retaining control over their McAfee subscription," they added.

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