It has been a bad week for AVG. Not only has it managed to stop its Windows 7 customer’s PCs from booting, it’s also come under scrutiny from consumer watchdog Which? magazine, which has accused it of sharp practices in selling consumer anti-virus upgrades.
The sorry story started yesterday when it was reported that a faulty update to the free AVG antivirus package was preventing some Windows 7 machines from booting.
The update for AVG Free Edition 2011 asked users to restart their system, but when they tried they were met with the message: “STOP: c0000135 The program can’t start because %hs is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem.”
AVG has since withdrawn the faulty update, but admitted that customers who had already installed the software may have trouble getting their PCs to start, before claiming that only some machines running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 were affected by the bug.
Although its support forum has gone someway to help solve the problems, including booting affected PCs in Safe Mode and running a System Restore, before reinstalling AVG, it has said that it not yet released a tool to hep fix the bugs.
People who can’t get their PC to boot at all are advised to follow a rather more complex workaround, involving AVG’s Rescue CD utility.
These bugs are enough to put a potential customer off renewing AVG. But according to Which? they may not actually have much choice, with the company using sneaky tactics to get consumers to upgrade for another year.
It says that consumers who upgrade their anti-virus protection through discounted offers are in danger of being caught out. Discounted offers are sent via emails or appear as pop-up alerts on a user’s PC, urging them to upgrade their existing anti-virus protection to a more powerful version – usually at a reduced price.
If someone signs up to the offer, the new subscription starts immediately and they can lose months off their existing anti-virus subscription. Symantec Corporation, makers of Norton anti-virus software, and AVG both admitted that their discounted offers work in this way.
While the terms and conditions of the offers support the practice, the reality is that some consumers aren’t aware of the loss of remaining time on the security subscription they’ve already paid for.
“Symantec and AVG are operating a confusing and arguably misleading anti-virus upgrade service,” said Sarah Kidner, Which? Computing editor.
“If consumers are given the opportunity to upgrade at a reduced price, it’s perfectly reasonable for them to expect their new licence to run on from the end of the existing licence.”