Lawsuit over Symantec, Digital River sales practices granted class-action status

About three years ago, plaintiffs filed claims against Symantec, and a company it contracted, alleging misleading sales practices – and now a federal judge has granted the lawsuit class-action status.

On Monday, John Tunheim, a U.S. district judge in Minneapolis, made the ruling.

The two lead plaintiffs, Devi Khoday and Danise Townsend, filed a complaint on Jan. 24, 2011 accusing Symantec and e-commerce outsourcing firm Digital River of deceiving customers who purchased software download insurance sold by the firms online.

Kohday and Townsend claimed that the companies hid the fact that consumers could re-download Norton antivirus for free during their subscription period, if they purchased a new computer or lost the software in some other manner, like a computer crash, for instance.

The "class" is defined as U.S. consumers who purchased “Extended Download Service” and “Norton Download Insurance” online between Jan. 24, 2005 and March 20, 2011, under the alleged circumstances.

Khoday and Townsend claim that “through material misrepresentations and omissions – [the defendants] induced customers to pay for download insurance that was represented as a necessary purchase in order to re-download Norton software outside the sixty-day download window,” court documents (PDF) filed on Monday said.

The Norton products, sold for $5.99 and $10.99 on Symantec's online storefront, were automatically added to customers' shopping carts when they purchased a Norton security product, the plaintiffs alleged, requiring consumers to “opt out” to remove the item from their cart.

During part of the time in question, Minnesota-based Digital River managed Symantec's online storefront. At the end of June 2010, however, the e-commerce vendor stopped managing the sale of Norton products when Symantec took over, court documents said.

In their complaint, plaintiffs accuse Mountain View, Calif.-based security firm Symantec of violating California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), while Digital River is accused of violating Minnesota's Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). 

Plaintiffs also brought claims against both companies for unjust enrichment.

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