CMA announces consumer enforcement action against providers of antivirus software

United Kingdom

Yesterday, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced a consumer law investigation into the anti-virus software market. The CMA investigation will consider whether business practices and terms and conditions associated with the automatic renewal of anti-virus software subscriptions are fair.

This announcement coincides with the release of the CMA’s response to a super-complaint by Citizens Advice alleging that long-term customers are overpaying for key services, such as broadband and insurance; see article here. Continuing with this focus on consumer protection law, the CMA is investigating concerns that some firms in the anti-virus software industry may not be complying with the relevant law. In particular, the CMA is considering the fairness of anti-virus software subscriptions on consumers and business practices on:

  • Whether automatic renewal is set as the default option  
  • Whether notification of renewal is sent to consumers and, if so, the timing of the notification   
  • When renewal payments are taken and whether the renewed subscriptions are charged at a different price to the original subscription.

Next steps

The CMA is yet to reach a final view on whether the terms and practices breach consumer law and expects to provide an update on the investigation in early 2019. In the interim, firms providing anti-virus software subscriptions should pay careful attention to their practices around automatic renewals to ensure that they do not risk breaching consumer protection law.