Intuit told to stop promoting "free" software unless everyone can actually use them

Someone using calculator on smartphone near dollar banknotes.
(Image credit: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued an Opinion and Final Order, finding TurboTax maker Intuit guilty of engaging in “deceptive advertising” practices,

The Commission upheld the opinion of Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), D. Michael Chappell, asserting that Intuit’s tax software and services had been marketed in a misleading manner, targeting consumers who were ineligible for such benefits.

Section 5 of the FTC Act has allegedly been violated, which prohibits ‘‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.’’

Intuit found guilty

According to the FTC announcement, Intuit’s defenses “lack[ed] merit,” leading the Commission to order Intuit to cease making the deceptive claims as outlined by complaint counsel.

Intuit has now been prohibited from advertising or marketing goods and services as being free, unless they are free for all consumers or it discloses clearly that a percentage of taxpayers or consumers would not qualify.

The company, which is responsible for software like TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Credit Karma, has also been told to clearly list all the terms, conditions, and obligations that are required in order to obtain the free good or service.

Further obligations were also raised whereby Intuit must share certain information, even in the case of limited-space ads.

The Commission’s unanimous 3-0 vote underscores the severity of the deceptive advertising allegations and demonstrates its commitment to protecting consumers from misleading business practices that could see them become victims.

An Intuit spokesperson told TechRadar Pro in an email:

"Absolutely no one should be surprised that FTC Commissioners - employees of the FTC - ruled in favor of the FTC as they have done in every appeal for the last two decades. This decision is the result of a biased and broken system where the Commission serves as accuser, judge, jury, and then appellate judge all in the same case.

Intuit has appealed this deeply flawed decision, and we believe that when the matter ultimately returns to a neutral body Intuit will prevail."

The FTC encourages consumers to stay informed about their rights and to continue reporting fraud, scams, and bad business activities via its website.

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Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!