Finallyfast.com maker to refund thousands in spyware case

After consumer complaints, PC tune-up seller Ascentive has promised to change business practices

The company whose late-night commercials promised to "make your computer run fast the way it's supposed to," will pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines and refunds to settle charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising.

In a settlement with the Washington State attorney general's office, Ascentive, best known for its FinallyFast.com Web site, will pay $78,000 in penalties and offer $17.90 refunds to thousands of its Washington State customers who purchased the company's PC cleanup products but did not use them.

At FinallyFast.com, PC users download software that tests their system for any performance bottlenecks and then offers to clean things up -- for a fee. Consumers complained that the software didn't work as advertised and that Ascentive racked up charges without properly notifying customers.

According to Assistant Attorney General Jake Bernstein, the company was peddling scareware -- software that always found severe problems no matter what the condition of the computer being scanned. "They basically crossed the line in terms of advertising to consumers," he said.

Bernstein's office has a list of complaints against Ascentive, which echo consumer grievances that can be found online.

In court documents, the Washington attorney general's office said that until March 2009, Ascentive's free scan software came with adware and endless, annoying pop-up warnings that exaggerated problems on the computer. "The free scan categorizes everything that it identifies as an 'error,'" the filings state.

Customers who wanted to cancel their subscriptions were forced though a cumbersome process and finally had to respond to an e-mail message before their accounts would actually be closed. The company has now agreed to fix the way it advertises and bills for its products, Bernstein said.

Ascentive sued Google in June 2009 after the search engine company began refusing to run advertisements for its products. It dropped the suit a month later, and Google is again running ads for Finallyfast.com.

Ascentive could not be reached for comment.

However, it looks like the company has made a lot of money. Ascentive claims there have been more than 20 million downloads of its free scans. In a YouTube video interview with Ascentive CEO Adam Schran, filmed on Richard Branson's Necker Island Caribbean resort, Schran describes how he's enjoying the money he's made with the company, "It's important to spoil yourself along the way," he says. "Treat yourself to trips to Necker Island or a local spa or massage. Whatever is fun."

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags legalsoftwareCivil lawsuitsWashington State Attorney General's OfficeAscentive

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?