Unfair business practice

As a computer user, I can usually separate scams from reality when dealing with things online. I  help people all day long that can never seem to figure out how they get viruses on their computer when they have an antivirus program running or how their FaceBook account was hacked, etc, etc.

Or they wonder why all of a sudden their getting spam and pop up windows telling them they need to purchase some software to fix the problems and then their credit card is now being charged weird amounts of money at random times. The first thing they blame is the computer, then usually the credit card companies and lastly, their email provider. Who they should be blaming are themselves.

This post is particularly interested in unfair business practices by some businesses to extort extra money out of people when it comes to services. In fact, most businesses don’t make much, if any profit on most of the products they sell, so they rely on services and other high-margin items to make up the difference.

One specific issue happens to be the way antivirus (and possibly other software makers) companies try to attach an “extended download” service to their customer’s shopping cart at checkout. Essentially this service claims to allow for the customer to be able to download their purchased software anytime within the time frame as defined by each company. What this implies is that when you purchase your software online, you can access the download for about 15-60 days, but if in the future you restore your computer or get a new one, you will NOT have access to the software in order to re-install it UNLESS you purchased the extended download service–this is simply NOT TRUE!

First of all, this sounds very illegal. If you purchase software, you are entitled to its use as defined by the user agreement and I have never ran into a user agreement that did not allow you to install the software on another computer provided that you removed it from the first one.

Anyway, back to my rant. Let’s clear something up while we’re at it. When you buy software, either online or from a store, you’re not actually buying the software (the disc, the download, zip file, etc.)–what you’re really purchasing is the license to use it and in order for them to verify your “legal usage”, they issue a product key. What this simply means is that you’re able to plug that product key into any matching version of that software.

In the case of antivirus software, if you bought a product key from a 2007 version of the software and have kept it renewed to this day, you do not need to go and purchase a new 2010 version to update your software; you just need to go download the 2010 version and use your key and voilà, you have a legal copy of the software. “But, how can I download the new software?!”, you ask. Well, I’ll tell you…

You can download the software by simply going to the manufacturer’s website and look in the support section. Some make it easy to find, some a little harder. If for some reason, you can’t find it, you can always download the trial version and just enter your full version key to unlock it.

What makes me sick is that they tack these charges onto your shopping cart automatically, so if you don’t catch it and remove it, you might mistakenly pay for it and this can cost anywhere from $4.99-$10. What makes it even more sickening is if you click on the “What is this?” link, you might see something like this:

When you purchase downloadable software from Symantec’s online store, Digital River, Symantec’s authorized online retailer, automatically grants you 60 days from the date of purchase to download your software order.

If you add Extended Download Service to your downloadable software purchase order, Digital River will keep a backup of all the software on your order for ONE YEAR. If you need to re-download your software, or access your Serial Key; it will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for ONE YEAR from the date of purchase by going to www.symantecstore.com/orderlookup.

This is the actual text from Symantec, the makers of Norton AntiVirus. If you read this, you might actually be worried that your software will only be available for 60 days! But how can this be if you’re able to go over to Norton.com right now and download the software? And what about storing your product key? For one, you can store it yourself on your own computer, but if you don’t, you’re able to access it from your Norton account over at www.MyNortonAccount.com at any time anyway–and you’re forced to setup this account when installing!

At least Kaspersky does it a little different. They charge you $9.95 for a backup cd. I still find this to be a rip off, but at least you’re getting something for your money. Also, when you buy this cd, it literally comes to you in a basic cardboard shipper and the disc is a poorly made CDR. It looks like someone made it at home with a crappy cd printer. At any rate, why do you need a backup cd when you can download your program anytime from their site? And when you have this download, you can make your own backup cd! Others that offer physical cds are McAfee ($12.95), AVG ($10.95) and Webroot ($8.95).

I just don’t understand why a company would participate in such a dishonest act. I know there’s an old saying that says “Never let a sucker keep his money.”, but is that how you want to imagine that corporations view the public?

Direct download links for the latest antivirus programs:

Congrats to Webroot as they are the only one from above that does not try and charge you for free downloads!

Lessons learned today:

  • No matter where or what you’re buying online, always, always, always review the entire contents of your shopping cart before submitting the payment.
  • Do not be suckered into purchasing “antivirus” software from popup windows or junk emails. Legitimate companies (if you can still call them that after reading the above) will not spam you for business.
  • Don’t believe the hype! Think logically.
  • Backup your downloads and product keys. They really don’t take up that much room.
  • If all else fails and/or you’re still worried, always buy your software from a retailer. Not only will you get the same price as online, but you will also be saving money by not having to buy that backup disc.

3 thoughts on “Unfair business practice

  1. Thanks for clearing this up. I'm buying Webroot and was skeptical about the value of the backup CD and you've confirmed my suspicions so I'll take that off the cart 🙂

  2. Quote: At least Kaspersky does it a little different. They charge you $9.95 for a backup cd. I still find this to be a rip off, but at least you’re getting something for your money. Also, when you buy this cd, it literally comes to you in a basic cardboard shipper and the disc is a poorly made CDR. It looks like someone made it at home with a crappy cd printer."

    Well, you may not realize that the backup cd is always an old/previous version to what you bought. Don`t believe it ? You b etter do.

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