Why Did Watchdog Take Norton to Court Over Auto-renewing Contracts?

The antivirus vendor has refused to cooperate with the CMA’s inquiry.

After refusing to divulge key information for a probe into auto-renewing contracts, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is taking Norton to court.

Following an inquiry into the antivirus software industry, the CMA found several issues with Norton’s terms and practices for automatically renewing contracts, which might result in customers paying for services they no longer want or need.

As a result, the CMA requested information from Norton, including research on how customers reacted to website information on auto-renewal and pricing. Norton, on the other hand, was adamant about withholding some of this information.

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The CMA will now use its legal authority to have this request enforced through the courts. This is the first time the watchdog has had to take such action in a matter involving consumer protection.

“It is entirely unacceptable that a leading antivirus software vendor has failed to disclose all of the information we requested, which is why we are taking the firm to court,” said Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive.

“Our exceptional decision in this matter underscores the serious consequences of Norton’s refusal, which is causing a CMA inquiry to protect UK customers to be delayed.”

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Several parts of the matter are being investigated by the CMA, including whether Norton provides customers with “sufficient ways” to cancel the automatic renewal and if it utilizes unfair contract clauses to boost the rates users pay when subscriptions automatically renew.

According to a NortonLifeLock spokeswoman, “Since December 2018, NortonLifeLock has been collaborating with the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) ongoing inquiry into our industry. We take these allegations seriously and are sure that our business operations and terms and conditions are both fair and legal in the United Kingdom. We are looking forward to finding a solution to this problem.”

Following worries that some antivirus software companies may be breaking consumer law, the CMA has launched an investigation into the industry. This inquiry began in December 2018 and was updated in June 2019 when the watchdog stated that it had written to “a number” of antivirus businesses because it was concerned about their practice of automatic membership renewals. It also said that it had sent letters to 16 other antivirus companies, requesting that they evaluate certain of their methods.

The CMA launched an investigation into Nvidia’s £30 billion acquisition of Arm in January to see how the merger might affect the UK market.

The CMA also recommended the government develop a legally enforceable code of conduct to regulate digital behemoths in December. It stated that the United Kingdom requires new powers, a new methodology, and a modern regulatory structure.

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