The FTC has fined Office Depot and Support.com- its software supplier- $35 million. The customers were tricked by these companies when they faked malware reports and asked the customers to pay millions of dollars in fake computer repairs.
Office Depot apparently used a program called “PC Health Check” – a free tool to check if your system has any problems or malware. It would require the user to answer yes/no for questions about slow speeds, viruses, crashes, and pop-ups. If the user answered ‘yes’ to any one of these, the scan would declare that there’s a malware on the device. Next, a pop-up would offer security updates and other services from Office Max (from Office Depot) and Support.com to fix the non-existing malware, which would cost the user hundreds of dollars.
This has gone on for years now. Office Depot knew about the issue way back in 2012, but continued to advertise it till 2016. As a punishment, Office Depot will pay a fine of $25 million and Support.com will pay $10 million.
Today’s verdict is a strong message, says the FTC. FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in an announcement after the verdict: “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.”