/ Technology

Have you been short-changed by anti-virus software?

Anti-virus graphic

Have you ever upgraded the anti-virus software on your computer? If so, did you know that this might have cut short your existing subscription? We’ve found that some companies worryingly support this practice.

We always thought that anti-virus upgrades were no more than just annoying pop-ups that caught you unawares.

So you can imagine our surprise when we received complaints informing us that discounted anti-virus upgrades were more than just irritating nuisances.

We decided to investigate this at Which? Computing and found that the upgrades by Symantec, makers of Norton anti-virus software, certainly weren’t the deals they claimed to be.

Short-changed by upgrading Symantec software

In fact, if you had an existing Symantec subscription and you received one of its upgrade offers, the moment you accepted, your existing subscription was rendered null and void – regardless of how many months it had left to run.

We were even more surprised that Symantec defended this practice, admitting that since upgrades provided additional features and more comprehensive protection, your previous subscription would end.

‘If customers install and activate the upgrade prior to the expiration of the time remaining on their existing product subscriptions, any time remaining on their existing product will not be added to their upgrade,’ the company told us.

Symantec isn’t the only software business to operate in this way, AVG uses a similar system, but we still think this is shocking – especially when many of these offers are promoted as being available for a ‘limited time only’.

Anti-virus upgrades need to change

While the terms and conditions of these offers may well support these practices, the reality is that many won’t be aware of the loss of time remaining on their security subscription.

Plus, isn’t it perfectly reasonable for you to expect that your new licence, even if it is an upgrade, will run on from the end of the existing one? If we didn’t think this, it’s unlikely we’d buy it in the first place.

We’d like the industry to either stop this practice or make it clear to consumers from the outset that by upgrading in this way, they’re shortening the terms on their existing subscriptions.


I would NEVER pay for AV software. Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) and the outstanding AVG are available for FREE. The are perfect for 99% of home users.

Keep your money, don’t buy AV.


I rarely renew a subscription as there is usually a deal with one retailer or another for a new subscription that is significantly less than the renewal cost.


This practice is shocking. They should charge, at most, an upgrade amount proportionate to the time remaining on the existing subscription, but Symantec/Norton also charge excessively for a normal subscription renewal. They wanted about £56 to renew my Norton 360 but elswhere on their website I was able to buy it anew for about £41, a saving of £15. Like so many commercial companies they seem money grabbing and irrational

Brian says:
3 December 2010

What exactly do they mean by upgrades? I’ve never had to pay extra or lose my previous subscription when upgrading my Norton product.

When I think upgrade, I think going from version 2009 to version 2011 with an active subscription, the subscription just carries over for free with Norton.

anonymous says:
3 December 2010

It seems the article would suggest the following loophole to be acceptable, to which I would disagree:

DAY ONE: buy cheapest AV w/ 1yr subscription
DAY TWO: install cheap AV & activate
DAY THREE: choose discounted upgrade to “super-AV” & expect to get 2 years of coverage using “super-AV”-level software

I doubt that is the “deal” that the company is trying to give the customer.


Anonymous – Did you deliberately misunderstand the point or are you an employee?

It was clearly stated that someone who had bought a one year subscription towards the end of their year with maybe 2 or 3 months to go gets an email from the company saying your subscription is due for renewal do you want to renew now to our updated one – you click yes and lose 2 or thee months of your existing security paid for programme.

Got it now anonymous?????????? Do try and pay attention when discussing these for you complex cases.


I recently bought a new Vaio laptop with Norton 360 as an option. I activated it, and use it quite happily. The license covers three machines. I also have a PC with NIS 2010 (free upgrade from 2009) and a second laptop with NIS2008.
As each of the latter 2 expire, I’m planning to swop them to the 360 license so that I end up with just one account and a common renewal date. At present I just get a renewal item on my visa bill for both which can be confusing


I’ve been using Norton Internet Security for years and have learnt the hard way that months can be lost from a subscription if you’re not careful about how you renew it. My advice is to go to Amazon or whoever is offering the best deal and buy the latest version of the product just before the old one is due to expire. Do NOT use the option offered in the Norton pop-up to renew as it will cost considerably more and could lose you up to a month of your existing subscription. Buying upgrades is also generally more expensive than buying the full product.

I think Symantec’s attitude is quite apalling and is sharp practice at the very least and possibly downright fraud. They don’t even warn you that the new version will only work for a year no matter how long is left of your old subscription.

Gerard Phelan says:
4 December 2010

I have suffered the opposite “problem” with Security software from another company. I renewed my subscription to Zone Alarm Security suite ( Firewall / AV / etc. ) in January 2007. Every six months or so they would alert me to download a new version of the software which I did and this reset the subscription clock back to 12 months. It was only after 2.5 years, in July 2009 that they finally asked me for renewal money again, which I happily paid. A year later though I moved onto the Microsoft Security Essentials suite because the Zone Alarm software now seemed to be causing me technical problems and that was unacceptable when I was paying for it.