American retailer Office Depot has been ordered to pay $35 million (£26 million) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over an alleged software scam.
The retailer and its software provider Support.com, have been accused of being complicit in a computer repair service scam, involving fake malware scans on its customers computers.
A programme called “PC Health Check” was offered to its customers for free and posed as malware detection software.
Instead of actually scanning the computer, the FTC claims the programme would automatically tell customers they had malware on their PC if they answered yes to any of four questions about whether they received pop-ups, slow speeds, viruses or crashes.
It would then promote the company’s tech service to fix the fake problems, often costing hundreds of dollars.
Both companies were reportedly aware of complaints regarding PC Health Check as early as 2012, but continued to promote it until late 2016.
Office Depot has now agreed to pay $25 million (£19 million) and Support.com has agreed to pay $10 million (£7.5 million) to the FTC, which will be used to refund consumers who purchased the software.
“Consumers have a hard enough time protecting their computers from malware, viruses, and other threats,” FTC chairman Joe Simons said.
“This case should send a strong message to companies that they will face stiff consequences if they use deception to trick consumers into buying costly services they may not need.”