The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is taking anti-virus software provider Norton to court over the latter's alleged failure to provide information to assist with an investigation. This is the first time the CMA has taken such action in connection with a consumer protection inquiry – but as we explain below, it is part of a wider pattern of the regulator requiring more information from business and taking a tougher line over conduct during investigations that it regards as inappropriate.
What is the investigation about?
The CMA has been investigating the anti-virus software sector since late 2018 over concerns that the practice of automatically renewing subscriptions is unfair and in breach of UK consumer law. Norton is one of the leading providers of such software. The investigation remains ongoing.
WHY HAS THE CMA TAKEN NORTON TO COURT?
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the CMA has power to require the provision of information for a variety of purposes, including ascertaining whether there has been a breach of consumer legislation. It appears that Norton has refused to provide certain information requested by the CMA for the purposes of its current investigation into anti-virus software. This included "research… on how customers responded to website information on auto-renewal and pricing". The CMA will be asking the court to order Norton to disclose the information. If the court does so and Norton fails to comply, it could potentially be fined (although only if the CMA brings further proceedings for contempt of court).