Network Solutions misled about refunds

Network Solutions LLC has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it misled consumers who bought its web hosting services by promising a full refund if they canceled within 30 days. In reality, the company withheld substantial cancellation fees from most refunds.

In an administrative complaint, the FTC alleged that Network Solutions, a domain name registrar and web hosting provider, offered web hosting packages with a “30 Day Money Back Guarantee,” but did not adequately disclose that it withheld part of the refund – up to 30 percent – from customers who cancelled within 30 days of buying an annual or multi-year package and registering an included domain name.

The proposed settlement order prohibits Network Solutions from failing to clearly disclose, before obtaining a customer’s billing information, the material terms of any money-back guarantee, or failing to refund the full purchase price in response to a request that complies with the terms of a guarantee. The settlement also bars the company from misrepresenting material terms of any refund or cancellation policy or money-back guarantee, or any other material fact about web hosting.

The Commission vote to issue an administrative complaint and accept the proposed consent agreement for public comment was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through May 7, 2015, after which the Commission will decide whether to issue the order on a final basis. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically.