Security giant Norton is facing court action in the UK after claims the firm enforced auto-renewing subscriptions on its antivirus customers.
The firm has been accused of reportedly refusing to assist the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in its investigation into claims that Norton Lifelock customers in the UK and Ireland ended up paying for services they did not want or need.
The CMA says it has requested information from Norton regarding such claims, but the security firm has not been forthcoming, prompting what the watchdog says is an "unprecedented decision" against the company's "completely unacceptable" behaviour.
- Check our list of the best firewall apps and services
- Here's our list of the best endpoint protection software
- We've also built a list of the best malware removal software around
"It is completely unacceptable that a leading anti-virus software firm has refused to supply all the information we asked for, which is why we’re taking the firm to court," said CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli in a press release.
"Our unprecedented decision in this case reflects the serious impact of Norton’s refusal, which is delaying a CMA investigation intended to protect UK consumers."
The CMA claims that Norton customers had their payment details kept on file by the company, meaning that even when their initial subscription ended, they would then be charged for a new subscription unless they had actively taken steps to cancel their contract.
This may have lead multiple Norton customers to end up paying far more than they expected, or even knew about, with the CMA also looking into whether the company raised prices when a contract automatically renewed.
The CMA says it has requested a swathe of information from Norton concerning these claims, including the company's own research concerning how customers responded to website information on auto-renewal and pricing - but Norton has apparently refused to provide some of the data.
The CMA says it regards this non-compliance from Norton as a breach of its legal obligations, and it will now look to enforce the request for information through the courts - marking the first time the CMA has needed to take this step in a consumer protection case.
“NortonLifeLock has been cooperating with this ongoing investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) since December 2018," a Norton spokesperson told TechRadar Pro.
"We take these claims seriously and remain confident that our business practices and terms and conditions are fair and compliant with UK consumer law. We look forward to resolving this matter.”
The move is part of an ongoing CMA investigation into the antivirus software sector in the UK and Ireleand. The investigation, which was opened in November 2018, looked to examine, "whether the business practices and terms and conditions associated with the automatic renewal of subscriptions are fair".
So far, 16 antivirus companies have been contacted by the CMA over concerns they may have over-charged customers, asking them to review their practices and terms and conditions to ensure that they are compliant with consumer law.
- Also here's our rundown of the best ransomware protection money can buy
Are you a pro? Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up to the TechRadar Pro newsletter to get all the top news, opinion, features and guidance your business needs to succeed!
Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.