Symantec and McAfee, the nation's two largest consumer IT security providers, will each pay $375,000 as part of a settlement with the New York Attorney General's office for renewing anti-virus subscriptions of customers without their knowledge.
The settlement, announced Wednesday by the office in a news release, requires that the two companies notify customers about the renewal process, which typically takes place on an annual basis, and provide them with an easy way to opt-out if they choose.
"The...investigation found that the companies failed to adequately disclose to consumers that subscriptions would be automatically renewed and that consumers would be charged for subsequent subscriptions," the release said. "Information about automatic renewal charges was not clearly disclosed but was instead hidden at the bottom of long web pages or in the fine print of license agreements."
The settlement also requires the two vendors to electronically alert customers if they are charged for the renewal and offer them refunds if requested within 60 days of being charged.
Symantec, in a statement, said that during the past two years, it has worked to enhance its "auto-renewal subscription process to make it more transparent and visible to our customers...We will continue to work in the future to comply with the office of New York's attorney general to make sure their concerns are fully addressed."
Mark Cochran, general counsel and executive vice president at McAfee, said in a statement that the company also will "be making it easier for consumers to opt-out of auto-renewal on McAfee's website and will further clarify the subscription duration and disclosure of its auto-renewal program."
Cochran stressed the importance of auto-renewal to ensure systems are updated against the latest threats.
The settlement only addresses the companies' consumer security products.