warning - Bitdefender & Avangate ethics - auto-renewal

Discussion in 'other anti-malware software' started by Steven Avery, Dec 5, 2012.

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  1. Steven Avery

    Steven Avery Registered Member

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    Hi,

    Bitdefender recently hit me with a $125 "auto-renewal" on a purchase that had been about $10 a year earlier. Their warnings about this were virtually invisible, (looking back, I see one email from Avangate with a blah subject line, no email at the time of the actual billing, and nothing I noticed. And I missed the credit card charge at the time, however I will report them now, better late than never, even if it might help someone else in the future).

    Their customer service (Dragos Barbu) response has been abominable, Their rep first answered with ""Your refund request has been acknowledged..." with a little blah blah about the fine print, that the auto-renew was set at the time of purchase (by them, not my decision) ... all very vague... and then further emails were simply ignored.

    They will not even respond to a request for the pro-rated period (about 70%) in the future. Which should be automatic.

    Essentially, it is a trick, a charade. They knew I was not an active customer, there was no registration, updates, installs or anything. They just used fine print to grab the $.

    Avangate (who does the billing) has been no better. At first they sent a note saying that Bitdefender would have to respond to the refund request, then a second note washed their hands of it totally.

    Caveat emptor. I'm usually very careful, here they were super-tricky, there was no indication I saw at the time of purchase that they would do this auto-renewal trickery. Apparently that was buried in some fine print.

    Some lessons. Careful about discount sales, that are really the first part in a scam.

    Avoid Bitdefender.
    Avoid Avangate. (They are in cahoots with Bitdefender on this.)

    I never ran into this particular chicanery before. And I have rarely run into a more dishonest set of responses and non-responses from the company administrations.

    Thanks for your consideration. I am happy to post on a forum where ethical considerations are noticed. Not only is the policy a scam, they will not talk about it, and they will not refund the money.

    Steven
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  2. Brandonn2010

    Brandonn2010 Registered Member

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    Norton auto-renews as well.
     
  3. jo3blac1

    jo3blac1 Registered Member

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    wow quite a story. someone else in here was complaining before about HMP unprofessional customer service and licensing issues. seems like some companies are just trying to milk as much as possible. i will stick to Avast free.
     
  4. Securon

    Securon Registered Member

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    Good Evening ! I can most assuredly echo your sentiments in having to go through third party vendors...such as Avangate...I just had a similar encounter with their splendid customer focused service...all sarcasm is intended...it was a forgettable experience in every aspect of the transaction process. It's the last time i'll ever deal with these human pylons. I had to deal with the vendor directly as you related...and if not for some internal contacts at the vendor,I would have been kicked to the curb. Disgusting behaviour in these challenging economic times. Now in all fairness I've dealt with other vendors who exemplify the ABC'S of A Customer Focused experience. They're the Vendors who have my business for Life. All the best in your search for integrity. Sincerely...Securon
     
  5. Steven Avery

    Steven Avery Registered Member

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    Hi,

    Thanks guys for noticing and responding.

    Tonight I followed this up with emails to an executive of Bitdefender and one of Avangate, and tomorrow I plan to try to get a Bitdefender exec on the phone.

    Yes, I sent the url to this thread, and pointed out that I waited patiently before writing a thread like this. After the first email, Bitdefender simply did not respond ... at all. And my tone was reasonable and professional throughout.

    Auto-renewal is not ipso facto evil. However, when it is implemented silently by them, not you, on a super-discount purchase a year earlier, and applied to a "customer" who is not using the product (which of course they can tell) with sub-minimal notification. And then used for an amount 10x more than the purchase.

    Then scam is a very mild word.

    Then, to top it off, the bulk of the period is in the future. And they do not even respond to the refund request, not even pro-rated for the future period.

    Note that these types of public concerns do get noticed. Especially if it is seen that the concerns are legit and reasonable, and the policies of the company are simply greed-motivated. Bitdefender has offices in the USA, so I will report them to the consumer affair agencies as well as our puter community. However, I am curious to see if any of their executives notice first.

    I know I pay close attention to the ethical issues. Sometimes good companies slip a smidgen. Sometimes there are gray areas. Hitman is discussed above. Comodo has played some games. Even Avira was playing with some silly no-integrity installs until there was a loud response.

    However, this one above is essentially blatant thievery, made worse by a customer service "response" that is worse than useless.

    ==========================

    Note: re-checked my email, and today I received from a second thief-accomplice.
    "Ioana Bogdan., Bitdefender Technical Support Engineer"

    "... our refund policy. We can only issue a refund within the first 30 days after the purchase."

    And why is a "Technical Support Engineer" responding, rather than the head of customer service ? Tomorrow I try to telephone call a real exec at their Florida office. So far, they do not seem to have any business ethics in this company.

    Steven
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  6. jo3blac1

    jo3blac1 Registered Member

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    We will see what becomes of this. The fact that a customer has to go to such great heights to get a refund is ridiculous. Gonna make a mental note of this company.
     
  7. Duradel

    Duradel Registered Member

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    I had this problem as well.

    I purchased a copy of BitDefender during a 50-70% off promotion through Avangate with PayPal and was able to get my money refunded by PayPal fairly easily after being hit with a $125 renewal fee which I had no idea I had agreed to.

    Avangate kept harassing me through emails trying to intimidate me into paying them for the value of the renewal even though I stated I didn't want it.

    Eventually they got BitDefender involved too but they merely stated that they would like any feedback I could provide as to why I didn't require a renewal which I provided.

    In the end Avangate stopped emailing, probably because there were others's they could crack easier.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  8. Firecat

    Firecat Registered Member

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    They can't, as people in charge of handling auto-renewals are not generally in touch with the support team or the people running the license management/update servers, so mostly they don't have an idea whether you are still using the product - they just have a database of users and the license keys.

    This is because many tech support executives also double up as customer service executives. Basic training in both is given to all staff; it's when things need to move to a higher representative that tech support becomes distinct from customer service :)

    I'd actually recommend users to use a credit/debit card that is close to expiry when making purchases, so that auto-renewal really doesn't have valid information to go on. Too many cases of unauthorized autorenewal have been popping up lately!
     
  9. Steven Avery

    Steven Avery Registered Member

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    Hi,

    Thanks, Duradel. For me this is proving to be more difficult.

    Interesting that PayPal handled it well, I often use them, I will check what I used in this case. It was more than 30 days before I noticed, so credit card companies tend to be hard to work with in a substantive way. I have noticed that Paypal tends to give you more information about what is a purchase than a credit card company. Also it is fairly easy to keep a Paypal account with a low balance. They have pluses and minuses but those are good points.

    The credit card expiration date idea of Firecat is worthwhile, although I am not sure that this is a 100% lockdown guarantee. As for auto-renewal not knowing about actual use, they could rectify that very easily, if they cared and were not out to rob people.

    Duradel, if you have any names of real people at BitDefender or Avangate who actually seem to think, please let me know, here or in PM or email. This is my next approach.

    As they keep up the stonewall approach, I plan on posting this warning on numerous forums. Wilders is the centerpiece due to the interest in security software and ethics.

    As you point out, even if they bend in one case, often it is just because of the squeaky wheel syndrome, it is the policy itself that is unethical top to bottom. Burying an auto-renewal in way back in fine-print ... and pretending that it is something the customer "set".

    ie. The company is crooked. For the one person who manages a refund, they may steal from 99 others. (Maybe not that many, since often it is noticed quickly, but they obviously steal from a good number.)

    ===================

    It looks like Bitdefender has have honed theivery to a fine art. As an example, there is even a thread on their forum about how difficult it is to cancel an auto-renewal, even one you never set up.

    I Want To Cancel Auto Renewal But Bd Thinks I Want A Refund
    http://forum.bitdefender.com/index.php?showtopic=37829
    Notice that, even in their special instructions, there is no clear idea at "checkout" how to get that popup up. Also, they apparently are changing the scam methods periodically, so the picture you see today can be totally different than a year ago.

    And Avangate's order confirmation says NOTHING about your having, supposedly, bought a product with Auto-renewal. They are crooked top to bottom.

    ===================

    Steven
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  10. andyman35

    andyman35 Registered Member

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    I've experienced issues with my car insurance company auto-renewing my policy unless I specifically tell them not to;a point of some irritation to me.To find that AV vendors are now doing likewise is beyond the pale IMO.What with having to "opt-out" of toolbars etc. all this "user convenience" is quite overwhelming.:mad:
     
  11. The Red Moon

    The Red Moon Registered Member

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    Maybe people would be better off using trial software and evaluate the customer service from there rather than shelling out amounts of money and then complaining about bad customer service?

    Maybe the free options are more suitable ?
    I cannot understand why people are shelling out huge amounts of money on a multitude of security products?
    A good day to you all.:ninja:
     
  12. Steven Avery

    Steven Avery Registered Member

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    Hi,

    I tend to agree. Probably I have spent about $25 to $50 on security products over five years (one time I bought an Online Armor deal, and was reasonably pleased). About $10 was in this Bitdefender deal. It was their trickery that led to this big billing, I see no reason for big bucks if you have good products layered. My security has been decent now for some years. (Private Firewall and Avira, Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware are four main security pieces, also WinPatrol for startup. Other puters vary a little, eg. Outpost Firewall is on one.).

    Anyway, I have a post on their forum, and it received a response from Christian, "Senior Technical Support Engineer" that that are opening a new ticket and I will receive an email. We shall see. (Let me give credit where due, they do not seem to be censorship oriented on the forum.)

    So I will hold off trying to call corporate and speaking to real head honcho, and I will report back. As you can see, I have had to go through super-hoops to get any real attention.

    btw, auto-renewing auto insurance should be easily controllable (Geico is very good on visible options and info online). However, remember, there are big penalties and difficulties and legal liabilities possible when a person does not have auto insurance, so you can understand a bit more of a proactive auto-billing tendency. Geico combines email with telephone call, very effectively, and auto-billing, while encouraged as a smart idea, is 100% opt-in. The effective communication is one reason I stick with them, despite their overspending on advertisements (direct dealing though, so it balances the commission aspect).

    Steven
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  13. Steven Avery

    Steven Avery Registered Member

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    Hi,

    Ok, I got a note from Avangate saying I am to receive the full refund ! (The email gives a certain piece of mind, I will watch the credit card.)

    And I am going to give Wilders some of the credit here. ***** (5 stars). Your sincere interest in the ethical matters, and reputation in the security industry, surely had an effect.

    =======

    Now, if they would only change their policies ! At least a lot of people are now informed of the game.

    And another point.
    When there is a real injustice, a real problem of ethics... squeak the wheel !

    (one tip: speak very strongly, directly, aggressively, don't get fudged, and stay short of ranting. That way they have to take you seriously. Spend a little time on it, since the ethics are the key issue, more than even the $.)

    Steven
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  14. jo3blac1

    jo3blac1 Registered Member

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    Still doesn't change how I feel about bitdefender. They need to change their policy. There is no reason for a customer to waste their life fighting their stupid policies like that.
    HMP and Bitdefender both put me off... But this just enforces my previous believe not to ever rent software. $10 was a good deal thou but the subsequent >$100 charge was a scam, no matter how small font the put it into. Security company should be trustworthy with clear rules and regulations. After all we are entrusting them with our data.
     
  15. Steven Avery

    Steven Avery Registered Member

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    Hi,

    My refund note came from - Sorin HAZU | Avangate - HEAD of Risk & Global Support.

    The good part is that it appears, from a well-written letter, that he is actually looking at the process, not just oiling the squeaky wheel. I sent him my suggestions and thoughts. Three suggestions about email (especially improving the original confirmation email, which usually does get read carefully, and one at time of payment, with an emphasis on subject lines). And an important discussion about opt-out and opt-in. And that opt-out, if it is to be used at all, should be a clear, separate line that is easy to remove (uncheck) right on the invoice, super-clear. Not a complex pop-up that you somehow bring up if your keys and mouse hit the right spot while the dwarf star hits the Mayan calendar.

    Thus, even though round one was frustrating, round two was encouraging, and I can work with Avangate without prejudice, carefully. Apparently I have a number of purchases from them, probably Bitsdujour stuff over a few year period.

    Bitdefender becomes a bit player. As I said above, at least their forum was utilized properly. (And I could find a complaint about a similar issue from a while back, which gave context.) I have no interest in using their software at this time, but if there is an indication that their methods changes, then, at that time, they will be ok.

    Again, the letter from Sorin was excellent, reviewing the whole thing, considering the implications, etc. Not a play thing, but real.

    Steven
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  16. Kyle1420

    Kyle1420 Registered Member

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    Thanks Steve,
    I will not recommend to others or purchase myself any products from Bitdefender
     
  17. SorinH

    SorinH Registered Member

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    Steven,

    Thanks again for your fair comment on this forum and for giving us the chance to respond and to act in this matter.

    As mentioned in my email that you kindly quoted, we are going to engage our partners in a series of discussions regarding the ordering and billing process.

    While vendors can customize to a large degree both the flows and the appearance of the ordering process, Avangate endeavors to ensure ethical and best business practices related to subscription based products and refunds are enforced.

    We are also continuously looking at improving end-customer satisfaction, which in turn reflects positively on the vendors themselves.
    Thank you again for your feedback – it is most appreciated and our communication channels are always open to anyone for further suggestions.

    Best regards,
    Sorin H. | Avangate
    www.avangate.com
     
  18. Blackcat

    Blackcat Registered Member

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    Would this BD scam be the same with any other third-party apart from Avangate?

    I have recently bought a very cheap license for BD Antivirus Plus through CleverBridge/Creative Mark, checked the paperwork but there is no mention of an automatic autorenewal.
     
  19. Antarctica

    Antarctica Registered Member

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    I was just thinking the same thing! I bought a licence from Downloadcrew Softwares in July.o_O
     
  20. Blackcat

    Blackcat Registered Member

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  21. Firecat

    Firecat Registered Member

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    Auto-renewal only applies to products bought with the vendor as the merchant; and not for products bought from resellers like Creativemark. Creativemark does not enable auto-renewal by default AFAIK, and since BitDefender itself doesn't have access to your card details as you did not purchase directly from them, auto-renewal cannot be imposed on you (unless you enable it yourself in the account page at the website). In these cases BitDefender has partnered with Avangate and Digital River. This doesn't mean that you will be autorenewed if you bought from a reseller who also uses Avangate or Digital River - the autorenewal option is specified by the merchant/seller when setting up the eCommerce platform for the transactions.

    Hope this helps :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  22. Blackcat

    Blackcat Registered Member

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    Thanks, Firecat :thumb:
     
  23. Steven Avery

    Steven Avery Registered Member

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    Hi,

    Good explanations. However, I think you would check, especially with BitDefender (If I remember correctly, they have a way in your support area to see if you have auto-renewal on where you sign in to the product, and you can shut it off, which makes sense, it really should be triggered by them, not Avangate, Digital River, etc.). And secondarily, if unsure, the particular vendor. (My confirmation purchase email did not mention auto-renewal.)

    Software-merchant relationships can vary this way or that, so I would not assume anything without checking. (I tend to take pictures of important screens, like airplane tickets and significant purchases, and save them as a PDF or JPG in a special folder with an easy-search name.)

    As you can see, after the initial bumps, the response from Avangate has been very satisfactory, including acknowledging my specific suggestions:

    "I completely understand your points; subsequently I will take into consideration the proposed action set while drawing the strategy approach together with Bitdefender" - Sorin

    Followed by more explanation of the software-merchant dynamic and their desire to be on the right side of the ethical issues (my paraphrase).

    I want to be fair, you can not ask for more than that. The de minimis on my end would have been a refund only and bye, then there would be real cause to grumble.

    And also we see accepting the invitation to come into the firing range of Wilders. Avangate comes off as having a concerned exec, and because of that I will gladly give them the benefit of the doubt that the initial set-up was more confusion and bureaucracy and stuff like that than motives untowards, on their end.

    My feelings towards BitDefender remain a bit ambivalent, with a watch-and-see approach. Their forum does get a compliment. They opened a new ticket, but I did not search that out, since by then Avangate had done the refund and discussions.

    I think we have burned so often by companies doing weird stuff that we can be slow to acknowledge when the answer is spot-on :) .

    Plus we are used to cover stories, and stone-walling and fudged explanations, even when dubious practices are improved (Avira with their Uniblue and Ask disaster, Comodo when they do stuff, etc.). It is refreshing to get a straightforward response, not necessarily "we wuz wrong" .. but at least "good suggestions, we are going to actively improve".

    Btw, I noticed that I have AVG on one puter on my security mix, working about = to Avira, maybe Emsi on another, but that might be expired, to be replaced.

    Steven
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  24. Cimmerian

    Cimmerian Registered Member

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    @ Steven Avery

    1) I was sorry to read about all the troubles you've encountered with Avangate, but glad to see that your issue has been resolved to your satisfaction..:thumb:

    2) I would like to thank you for bringing this to the Wilders' community's attention. I took advantage of the G Data sale on BitsDuJour a couple of weeks ago, and your post made me remember that Avangate handled the transaction. I just verified (seemingly), on their site that there was no auto-renewal involved with my purchase. I would never have thought about this if you hadn't posted about it. So, thanks again! You may have saved many of us a big headache!
     
  25. Blackcat

    Blackcat Registered Member

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    Yes I did check with the software vendor who confirmed that there is no auto-renewal with my license.

    But thanks for the overall heads up anyway.
     
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