Symantec offers compensation for bad software update

Symantec will offer free software to users hit by a faulty antivirus update released by the company, but the deal is only good for a short time

More than a month after Symantec knocked out 50,000 Chinese PCs with a bad software update, the company is ready to offer compensation. But Chinese users eligible for the offer have to act fast; it's only good for a couple of weeks.

Symantec's problems in China began on May 18, when it released a bad software update that caused its Norton antivirus software to wrongly identify two system files in the Simplified Chinese version of Windows XP as malware and quarantine them. That mistake, which Symantec blamed on "an automated process," left tens of thousands of PCs crippled and Internet bulletin boards full of angry posts.

Chinese users who lost data because of Symantec's faulty update demanded compensation, and at least two lawsuits were filed against the company. But Symantec was slow to respond, saying earlier this month it was considering requests for compensation.

After five weeks, Symantec is ready to make amends. The company is offering affected Chinese consumers a 12-month Norton license extension and a copy of Norton Save & Restore 2.0. Corporate customers are being offered Symantec Ghost Solution Suite licenses, depending on the number of PCs affected. Symantec is not offering to extend Norton licenses for corporate customers affected by the bad update.

Symantec described its offer as "a gesture of our goodwill."

Chinese users will have to move fast if they want to take Symantec up on the deal. The company is only accepting applications for compensation during a brief window of time: from June 27 to July 15. The company didn't say why the period is so short, but said it was a sufficient span of time.

"We are offering more than two weeks for the registration period which we believe is a reasonable period of time for customers to register," said Catriona Turner, a Symantec spokeswoman in Australia, in an e-mail response to questions. "If there are legitimate reasons why a particular customer is unable to register by July 15, we will give consideration to extending the date for that customer."

Turner said the terms and conditions of the compensation offer did not require users to forego the right to legal action over damage caused to their systems by Symantec's update. "We hope that our customers will recognize that we are offering this goodwill gesture in recognition of any inconvenience caused by this incident," she said.

Users who want to take Symantec up on its offer must apply at a special Web site, which will validate their copies of Norton Antivirus to make sure they are licensed copies and eligible for the offer.

"Customers will be asked to complete a series of questions during the validation process to help us ascertain that the customer was genuinely impacted," Turner said.

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