Office Depot and partner company Support.com scammed a number of customers by charging $300 dollars for unnecessary services, reports Ars Technica. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced in late March that the two companies will pay a total of $35 million in penalties, with Office Depot paying $25 million and Support.com paying $10 million.
The unnecessary services in question were computer scans that Office Depot and Office Max, who merged in 2013, sold as a “PC Health Check” program that Support.com developed and actually fed users completely fake results. The sale of these scans violates the FTC Act’s prohibition against deceptive practices.
“Defendants bilked unsuspecting consumers out of tens of millions of dollars from their use of the PC Health Check program to sell costly diagnostic and repair services,” said the FTC.
The program would run fake tests on the user’s computer in which it produced fake results and recommendations of other services they should purchase to fix problems their software didn’t really have.
The FTC alleges that the corporations “tricked those consumers into thinking their computers had symptoms of malware or actual ‘infections,’ even though the scan hadn’t found any such issues. Many consumers who got false scan results bought computer diagnostic and repair services from Office Depot and OfficeMax that cost up to $300. Suppport.com completed the services and got a cut of each purchase.”
Sometimes employees even checked inaccurate boxes throughout the scan to ensure that it would recommend an expensive service that the user didn’t need.
“Defendants trained Office Depot and OfficeMax store employees on how to utilize the PC Health Check Program and instructed store employees to check any of the Initial Checkbox Statements that applied based on the consumer’s responses,” the FCC’s complaint said. “Consistent with their training, Office Depot and OfficeMax store employees read each of the Initial Checkbox Statements once the program began and selected the corresponding box based on the consumer’s response.”
Some employees, uncomfortable with lying to customers, launched complaints to corporate about the fake services, but they were never formally addressed.