...or why McAfee thinks it can take money from you without asking.
UPDATE NOV 2011:
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS WEBSITE IS NOT ANYTHING TO DO WITH MCAFEE. SENDING ME MESSAGES WILL NOT GET YOUR MONEY BACK FROM MCAFEE.
Warning...this is a bit of a long rant...
Over the past decade or so I have switched between various security solutions for my PC, probably just following the popular trends but always trying to keep a good level of security without a performance hit.
I used McAfee VirusScan for many years, purchasing my renewal every year when prompted (for example, I paid £10.66 with VAT, about $20 US, in 2004 for the annual renewal of version 7).
Until March 2006 that is. My records show that I purchased a new version of VirusScan for £29.99 ($60.00), which must have been on offer or something - I can't remember why I bought it. I do know that I assumed that all would be the same as before - that is, each year my VirusScan software would annoy me with messages until I renewed.
At some point, a few months later, I got fed-up with the performance of the McAfee product, removed it (I actually ended up re-installing Windows to get rid of the Security centre thing), and carried on with an alternative product.
So imagine my surprise this morning, 1 year and 11 months later, when I get an email from email@example.com with the subject "McAfee Subscription Renewal Confirmation". It said:
Your McAfee® subscription has been successfully renewed using the payment information on file.
You can now enjoy another year of protection whenever you use your computer and go online.
Details of your subscription renewals:
Order #: ***************
McAfee VirusScan Plus : £ 39.99(GBP)
Total Tax : -
Total Price : £39.99
McAfee is always working hard to keep you and your computer protected. We know your loyalty depends on our ability to continually provide you with the best and most innovative security products on the market. We are the only major security company that is 100% dedicated to security.
As always, we thank you for being a McAfee customer.
P.S. If for some reason you wish to cancel your subscription, McAfee can provide a full refund only if cancellation is within 60 days of this renewal notice.
To contact McAfee Customer Support, visit www.mcafeehelp.com and select your country or language.
This message is being sent from: McAfee, Inc, McAfee Ireland Holdings Ltd (Europe), McAfee Co., Ltd. (Japan)."
* I blanked the order information from the quoted email above.
Firstly, I never allowed McAfee to retain my credit card information in the past because:
- I don't like the idea of McAfee (or most other companies) holding my card details and billing information on their servers.
- I am likely to change my PC security software at some point - why would I want to remember to cancel something?
Secondly, £39.99 for the renewal of virus definitions subscription?!? I can buy this here in the US for $39.99 - that is half the price! I am not a believer in the Rip off Britain thing but come on, how can they justify that?
A call to McAfee UK support (it was 06:30 eastern US time, the local helpdesk didn't open until 08:00 central, and they still thought I was in the UK) - it appears I agreed to the automatic renewal...and yes, they charged me last year too.
I have no record of last year's email to tell me and missed it on my credit card statement...I think I was lucky I saw it this time round - I recently rebuilt my PC and hadn't added McAfee to my spam filter yet.
So, how did I agree to the automatic renewal?
Tick (or not tick) a box?
Fail to remove an option automatically added to the shopping cart?
Say to McAfee - please take some money from my credit card every year just for being such a great company?
It seems I agreed to the automatic annual subscription by paying for the initial product with a valid credit card
That is what the McAfee EULA says. I quote "If you have agreed to permit McAfee to automatically renew your subscription to the Software by charging a valid credit card number which you have provided to McAfee, your subscription will be automatically renewed thirty (30) days prior to the expiration of the term and each anniversary thereafter for a fee no greater than McAfee´s then-current price, excluding promotional and discount pricing."
For those interested, this is in paragraph 3. It also says that you have to phone them to stop the automatic subscription.
There is no explicit statement, let alone question, option or tick box that lets you opt out during the check-out process. Nothing in the blurb on the website warns you about this. I tried the process again today, and notice a small bit of text in the cart that says "Note regarding subscriptions: At the end of your subscription, you'll be automatically renewed at the then-current renewal rate (billed to the credit card we have on file)."
I can't remember if that was there two years ago but based on reading other people's stories, I don't think it was.
Just to make it easy for you, the EULA is displayed in a small box making it unpleasant to read.
To be fair, they do have some info on this in the support section...but how does this tell a potential new customer what they are really buying?
I only found the information because I had already been caught out by the renewal.
What is worse, they do not explicitly say that they will store your billing and credit card information nor allow you to say "please don't risk my privacy and financial well-being by storing my credit card information on your servers".
I can only wait to see if they do refund me for this year (I can't face the pain of trying to get last years money back), but how can I know they have removed my personal information and credit card details?
To finish up, it appears that this has been a problem for a few years, here are just a few of the interesting stories I found...