Senator Calls For Investigation Into Office Depot’s Alleged Computer Scanning Scheme

Following a whistleblower report that some Office Depot staffers are allegedly falsely telling customers their computers are infected with viruses in order to sell them on unnecessary repair services, one lawmaker is calling on federal regulators to investigate.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA) sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chair Edith Ramirez, urging the agency to open an investigation into the “free computer scan” program.

If that investigation backs up the whistleblower’s claims, the senator says the FTC should use its authority under federal law to take action, whether it be fines or consumer refunds.

“American consumers rely on their personal computers now more than ever,” she writes in the letter. “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.”

Cantwell’s concerns come just days after an employee of the office supply retailer alleged that pressure to sell protection plans and other services had led store staffers to misdiagnose computers with viruses.

Following those claims, KIRO-TV in Seattle launched its own investigation taking six computers to various Office Depot stores in Washington and Oregon for PC Health Checks.

There, technicians determined that four out of the six computers showed symptoms of malware. To fix the issues, the employees attempted to sell services costing up to $200.

However, the computers were out-of-the-box-new, and a second test by an unaffiliated computer security firm found no symptoms of malware and no needs for repair.

Office Depot told KIRO earlier this week that it has opened its own investigation into the claims, noting that it in “no way condones any of the conduct that is alleged” and will “take appropriate action.”