BBB Tip of the Week: ZookaWare and deceptive practices
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office has entered into a settlement with software company ZookaWare and its owner, Carl Haugen, for allegedly engaging in unfair and deceptive practices over several years.
The attorney general’s High-Tech Unit first became aware of the activities under Blue Penguin Software, a company based in Sequim. Soon after, Blue Penguin sold all of its assets to ZookaWare and relocated to Arizona.
ZookaWare products are two maintenance programs, SpyZooka, which removes spyware, and RegZooka, which repairs registry errors, and CyberBackup, an online file back-up service.
Some of the deceptive practices attributed to trial versions of products include falsely identifying “spy cookies” or “infections” that were regular tracking cookies and harmless registry issues as “problems” needing immediate correction, thereby prompting purchase.
ZookaWare also allegedly posted fake product reviews and customer satisfaction stories on social media, blog and online news sites. As part of the settlement, the defendants will stop all of the deceptive and unfair practices and pay $40,000 in civil penalties and $57,000 in costs and attorneys’ fees.
ZookaWare will also provide restitution to Washington state customers who purchased their products between Jan. 1, 2009, and July 19, 2012, and were charged automatic subscription or renewal fees after their initial purchase. The company will contact eligible consumers by email within 45 days of the settlement. Consumers who believe they are eligible but haven’t received notice should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To avoid deceptive and unfair practices of online companies, the BBB recommends that you should:
• Check out online businesses at www.bbb.org or by calling 509-455-4200.
• Be leery of excessively positive or negative consumer reviews. These may be fake.
• When required to provide a credit card for a “free trial,” read the terms and conditions carefully.
• Review your credit card statements often for unauthorized charges.
You can learn more about filling a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office at www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx or by calling toll-free 800-551-4636.
Erin Dodge, BBB editor