Supreme Court Lets Class Action Racketeering Suit Against Best Buy & Microsoft Move Forward

from the the-not-so-free-paid-trial dept

Way back in 2003, we wrote about accusations that Microsoft and Best Buy were scamming customers into signing up for Microsoft's ISP MSN. The accusation was that Best Buy employees would scan the "free trial" MSN CD-ROMs that were at the store when customers would make a purchase. Customers wouldn't realize it, but the scan would then charge that customer's credit card once the free trial ended, signing them up as fully paying customers. While we wondered how widespread this practice was, some Best Buy employees have come forward to confirm that it was done at times. Both Best Buy and Microsoft have been fighting the case, and an appeal went all the way up to the Supreme Court, trying to get the case thrown out, but the Supreme Court has refused to review it, meaning the case can move forward. Of course, what's left out of much of the coverage is that lawyers working for Best Buy have already admitted to altering some of the documents he handed over in the case, which certainly doesn't bode well for Best Buy. While it's still unclear just how big a "class" this covers, if the two companies really were involved in such an activity, it does seem quite sleazy.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: class action, free trial, racketeering
Companies: best buy, microsoft


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Haywood, 15 Oct 2007 @ 4:05pm

    Sleazy doesn't cover it

    I have no trouble believing it though. My impression of Best Buy is that they are constantly trying to tack something onto your purchase, be it extended warranty or something like MSN. I can't imagine anyone actually wanting MSN; paying for things easily obtainable elsewhere free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Tim, 15 Oct 2007 @ 5:54pm

    Yep

    Strange.. Very strange..

    So if Best Buy scan's it for $0.00 and the employee unknownly does it and is told to do it to track the inventory I don't think its a Best Buy issue necessarly. However if they did knowingly charge it to the customers Credit Card and NOT telling them that this will officialy start the trial and after X amount of days they will charge you the full amount unless you cancel then that's another story.

    But why would you allow scanning it for $0.00 and then assume that you've officially started the trial not even knowing if the customer actually installed it, and tried using it? Wouldn't you think it would be better to wait for the customer to install it, and start using it before asking for the CC number to begin the official trail? And who's at fault for that Best Buy? or was that a requirement from Microsoft to scan them in order to track how many of them are being used, taken?

    Anyway, lots of questions as to intent, of what was supposed to happen vs. what probably did happen so I guess we'll see where this goes, but hopefully it was more of an honest mistake vs knowingly doing it and not telling the customer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    spencerMatthewp, 15 Oct 2007 @ 5:56pm

    I think I am a victim

    For about three years straight, in July, I kept getting a bill from MSN on my credit card for an anual subscription. I thought it was odd since I had never used even the trial of MSN (AOL twice and earth-link once but NEVER MSN.) I of course submitted it as fraudulent to my credit card company who took care of 100% of the charge, and never thought twice about it.

    I've read the other stories on this, but this time it hits me that that is probably what happened. I keep meticulous records of that stuff, and I bet I can find where I made a Best buy purchase on that card in about may or June 2003.

    Fortunately, that card reached it expiration date and was reissued by the bank. This year I didn't see the charge, and since I never use that card anymore, I'm pretty sure I would have noticed If I had received a bill.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Jean, 15 Oct 2007 @ 6:41pm

    Lies, damned lies

    Best Buy offered me a "free" subscription to a magazine. Little did I know that "free" ended after a couple of months and then my credit card was charged!!!!

    SCAM!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Hot Guy, 15 Oct 2007 @ 7:35pm

    One time...

    I dated a girl from Best Buy and I am still paying for her subscription service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    DMXXX, 15 Oct 2007 @ 8:10pm

    everybody shares the blame

    As a former BBY employee, I am fully aware of the tactics used to sell these D-SUBs (digital subscriptions). They were quite underhanded at times, until somebody somewhere raised a stink. Yes, the store/chain is to blame for some of this as I'm sure somewhere, somebody higher up got the idea to tell customers it was "included" with their purchase. Other stores followed suit and, thanks to the store vs. store nature of BBY, it became the big way to make money. And don't fool yourself. If I remember correctly, the store received $90-$100 per MSN subscription they activated.

    Sadly, some of the onus falls on the customer. During the subsciption process, you are asked for your credit card. I suppose, if you're paying by credit card, they may have the number already. But, you then had to confirm a username. Its possible they could have confirmed it for you, but if the guy behind the counter is messing with a signature pad and constantly looking at your credit card, you might want to pay attention. Lastly, you are asked to sign a statement saying you understand the terms and conditions. So either the guy at the counter forged your signature, which I'm sure has happened, or you signed a legally binding agreement without actually reading or understanding what it was all about. Did you by chance utter "Moooo" when you were done signing? While BBY pulled some underhanded stuff, there's an old saying. Caveat emptor. "Let the buyer beware." Hopefully, if you haven't learned that lesson by now, you've packed your things and moved to the moon.

    Lastly, the free subscriptions to SI or EW are actually free. You get 8 free issues, just like the flier says. And you'll be automatically renewed, just like the flier says. And, if you call and cancel within the first year, you'll get your issues and a refund (or just your issues if you cancel early), just like the flier says. I know, that English is a rough language.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Bill, 16 Oct 2007 @ 5:02am

    They got me too

    I purchased two laptops from Best Buy in that time frame. They told me that the MSN service was MANDATORY in order for me to get the laptops. All I had to do was cancel in 90 days, which I did. I thought that was really good indication of what they thought of me as a customer to force an unwanted service on me. I now shop elsewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    RoyKaBob, 16 Oct 2007 @ 7:04am

    Re: everybody shares the blame

    >> I know, that English is a rough language.


    Especially when you aren't given all the info.

    Best Buy pulled this crap on me. At the checkout they asked:

    "Would you like 8 free issues of Sports Illustrated?"

    I asked:

    "What's the catch?

    Teller:

    "None...totally free!"

    So I said YES, wasn't given any flyer, and was never given anything in the mail or from SI that I had a trial period and that I was about to get charged.

    When I got the bill, I contested it.

    Best Buy said I was "warned".

    I got a $25 gift card from Best Buy, and dinged them via the BBB.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Steve R. (profile), 16 Oct 2007 @ 8:55am

    At Best Buy I asked if I could buy a computer without the operating system (Windows VISTA). I was told NO. The operating system and the computer are two different "products" so these components can be sold separately. My prediction for those who "win" the class action lawsuit: $1 off your NEXT Best Buy purchase of $1,000.00 or more if done withing one week of the settlement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    BBY-X, 16 Oct 2007 @ 11:04am

    I worked at Best Buy during the MSN push. The company put an insane amount of pressure on employees to sign people up for MSN. You would get written up if you didn't try to test a customer gag reflex by shoving in down their throat for at least 15 minutes. They offered 3 year contracts, which allowed you to get $400 off instantly of any product, or 2 year contracts for $200 off. And despite the level of pressure behind selling these, signing someone up for MSN was a lengthy process. If you rang out the MSN CD, it told the system to initiate a special signup process. The cashier would then have to fill out your name, address, phone number, swipe a real credit card (no best buy cards, visas/amex/etc..), choose a unique master account name (which would ask for the customer to verify the name on the LCD signature screen, and if it was already taken they'd have to reconfirm their approval of the new name each time), and then they'd have to sign the LCD agreeing to the 2 line contract. It literally took 10-30 minutes depending on how busy the network was to sign someone up to MSN. Plus, they'd have to swipe their credit card a second time and do another signature for their actual purchase.

    Of course, all you need in order to sign someone up is their credit card info, the rest you can BS. And since you instantly got $400 worth of merchandise, I'm sure there were a lot of dishonest employees who retained some credit card info, or looked through the cards left at the store and signed them up in order to get free stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    SailorRipley, 16 Oct 2007 @ 1:48pm

    Re: everybody shares the blame

    Sounds fair, except...what flier are you talking about? I had it happen with the magazine scam: I never saw or received a flier (because if I had, I would have read it). I called my cc company too, they took care of it and informed me that they were VERY aware of the Best Buy free magazine issue

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Will, 16 Nov 2007 @ 8:46pm

    I bought my computer during that time frame. The asked me if I was interested. I said No.

    End of story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Bill Whittier, 30 Mar 2008 @ 7:28am

    Re: Lies, damned lies

    The same scam happened to me at the Best Buy store in Lancaster, Ohio. These crooks need to be exposed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Bill Whittier, 30 Mar 2008 @ 7:32am

    Best Buy Scam

    I made a purchase in january at the best buy in lancaster ohio. During the transaction the clerk told me that i would receive a free copy of sports illustrated. Several weeks later i received a copy of sports illustrated in the mail. A couple of weeks later i received another sports illustrated in the mail. I did not question it simply because, i never subscibed to it nor did best buy charge me for it. Here it is two months later and i check my bank account and see that sports illustrated has debited my account. I wrote to best buy customer service and they reccomended that i contact the store. I returned to the store only to be insulted and sent off by the manager telling me i would have to take it up with someone else. I did some checking online and found that many people also had the same complaint, in fact i see where there is a class action lawsuit being filed in california for this very same thing against best buy. It has cost me $25. Not a lot of money but enough to aggrivate me by being taken in by such an underhanded dealing. I doubt if i have any recorse here but i would like this practice to be exposed and wonder just how many other consumers have been taken in. I would be more than glad to speak to anyone about this and perhaps go into more detail. I intend to send this letter or complaint out to anyone who wants to listen and hopefully jump in and expose this type of dealings. Thank you for your time...Bill

    Bill Whittier

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Bill Whittier, 31 Mar 2008 @ 2:20pm

    Best Buy Scam

    I made a purchase in january at the best buy in lancaster ohio. During the transaction the clerk told me that i would receive a free copy of sports illustrated. Several weeks later i received a copy of sports illustrated in the mail. A couple of weeks later i received another sports illustrated in the mail. I did not question it simply because, i never subscibed to it nor did best buy charge me for it. Here it is two months later and i check my bank account and see that sports illustrated has debited my account. I wrote to best buy customer service and they reccomended that i contact the store. I returned to the store only to be insulted and sent off by the manager telling me i would have to take it up with someone else. I did some checking online and found that many people also had the same complaint, in fact i see where there is a class action lawsuit being filed in california for this very same thing against best buy. It has cost me $25. Not a lot of money but enough to aggrivate me by being taken in by such an underhanded dealing. I doubt if i have any recorse here but i would like this practice to be exposed and wonder just how many other consumers have been taken in. I would be more than glad to speak to anyone about this and perhaps go into more detail. I intend to send this letter or complaint out to anyone who wants to listen and hopefully jump in and expose this type of dealings. Thank you for your time...Bill

    Bill Whittier

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    irshaad, 7 Jan 2009 @ 3:40am

    OMg

    jus shocking

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.