Avast has suspended phone support for its free antimalware offering following reports of misconduct at a third-party technical support service.
Chief executive Vince Steckler said in a company blog post that the firm would not be offering iYogi support services for at least the next few weeks while it looks into claims that support staff had been misleading customers in order to sell iYogi products.
The two firms had previously worked together on a deal in which users of the free versions of Avast security software could contact iYogi call centres in order to receive support. Under the terms of the deal, iYogi salespeople were able to pitch users on the company's premium support projects after addressing the technical issue.
The partnership hit a roadblock, however, when security researcher Brian Krebs issued a report outlining the misleading behaviour being employed by support staff.
In the report, Krebs describes a call in which an iYogi technician tells the researcher that his fully updated and uninfected machine may contain errors and would require an upgrade to premium software.
"I can’t understand why a company like [Avast] would risk its reputation by partnering with a support organization whose sales tactics are practically indistinguishable from those employed by peddlers of fake antivirus software or scareware," Krebs said.
"What’s more, iYogi’s implied response to my initial support request was to inform me that Avast’s free software wasn’t working, and that in order to be fully protected against the latest malware threats, I needed to upgrade to the paid version of the software."
Following publication of the report, Steckler announced that Avast would be suspending the service and that the company would meet with iYogi and determine whether to continue with the support partnership.
"We believe that this type of service, when performed in a correct manner, provides immense value to users," Steckler said.
"As such, over the next weeks, we will work with iYogi to determine whether the service can be re-launched."
Larry Gordon, president of global channel sales at iYogi, admitted that misleading behaviour by support staff has been an ongoing problem with the company's "freemium" support service model and that the company would need to change the way it manages sales operations and presents its service to users.
Gordon told V3 that iYogi would be working to tighten oversight of support operations and that it would be making changes to its commission and incentive structures in order to ease pressure on staff to meet sales goals.
"I feel this is a Tylenol moment for us," Gordon said.
"We are out there helping people, we are good guys, but there is a crisis in the quality of the product were are offering."
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