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Sen. Cantwell calls for investigation after Jesse Jones’ reports on Office Depot

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Senator Maria Cantwell is calling for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports that Office Depot is causing consumers to buy unnecessary computer repair packages and software.

The move comes after KIRO 7’s Jesse Jones first exposed how Office Depot was misleading consumers in stores across the Puget Sound region.

Under its PC Health Check program, Office Depot offers free computer scans to customers to check for viruses and malware.

Jones found that Office Depot often informs customers of the presence of viruses and malware even in new, unused computers, to convince them to purchase the costly repair services.

On Thursday, KIRO 7 learned the company has suspended its free scan.

Under federal law, the FTC may bring enforcement action against deceptive or unfair marketing practices.  Cantwell urged the agency to use the authority to investigate allegations of such practices at Office Depot stores and to punish offenders if necessary.

Cantwell has sent a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.

Full text of the letter is below.

Dear Chairwoman Ramirez:

I have been made aware of attempts to sell consumers unnecessary malware to repair new and unused computers, as a way of increasing the sale of tech services offered by Office Depot, Inc.  Therefore, I am requesting that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate these allegations.

A recent news report by KIRO news of Seattle, Washington documents that many Office Depot stores in Washington State and in other cities across the United States are offering “free computer scans” that often indicate problems and result in consumers purchasing unneeded computer repair packages.

American consumers rely on their personal computers now more than ever. Kids need computers for their school work; families need computers to keep track of their finances; and small business owners need computers to run their enterprises.  They are the gateways through which we live our lives.  In this context, Office Depot’s exploitative behavior is particularly disturbing.

As you know, Section 5 of the FTC Act (15 U.S.C. Section §45) gives the FTC jurisdiction to bring enforcement actions against deceptive or unfair marketing practices.  I urge you to use this authority to investigate deceptive and unfair marketing practices Office Depot stores and to punish offenders.  I am requesting the FTC to investigate these marketing practices. We must to stand up for American consumers and make sure they are not being deceived into making purchases with their hard earned dollars.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you to protect consumers and your timely response on this matter.

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