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Class Claims McAfee Pulls a Fast One

SAN JOSE (CN) - McAfee, the Internet security software giant, gives customers' credit card information to an advertiser that uses deceptive pop-ups on McAfee's Web site to trick people into subscribing to its service, according to a federal class action. After customers buy software from McAfee's Web site, a pop-up appears that looks like the rest of the McAfee page, the class says. The pop-up thanks customers for their purchase and asks them to click the "Try it Now" button.

When they click on the button, believing they are activating the new software, they actually are being tricked into subscribing to Arpu, which claims to make it possible for customers to buy things online using credit card information already on file, according to the complaint.

The class claims the customers do not know about the subscription until they see monthly charges for $4.95.

"According to Arpu, 'McAfee partnered with Arpu in September 2007 with the goal of increasing their profitability by selling additional products to their customers. Now, whenever a McAfee customer completes a purchase on, an ad will appear for a related product or service. Interested customers can choose to subscribe to the product or service using the billing method just entered in their recent purchase. This convenience to the customer streamlines the purchase flow and increases the overall conversion rate,'" the complaint states.

The class claims that "all of the visual cues suggest that 'Try it Now' is a necessary step in downloading the McAfee software."

People who try to contact Arpu to cancel the subscription reach a recording that does not offer cancellation or subscription services, the complaint states.

Arpu is not named as a defendant.

The class adds that McAfee has told customers that it "could not do anything about the charge," and refused to "provide any assistance in understanding the charge or finding the vendor."

The class says that the Federal Trade Commission has found that the passing of billing information from one vendor to another "is at odds with consumer expectation and thus deceptive and unfair."

The class seeks an injunction, restitution, disgorgement, damages and penalties for violations of business and consumer laws, breach of faith and unjust enrichment.

It is represented by Gay Crosthwait Grunfeld with Rosen, Bien & Galvin, of San Francisco.

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