A pornography bill-processing company has agreed to forego $17 million that it billed computer users in order to settle deceptive-business charges, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Monday.
Privately held Alyon Technologies Inc. also could be forced to forgive another $22 million in bills if consumers dispute them, the FTC said.
The FTC charged Alyon and owner Stephane Touboul with illegal billing last year after consumers complained that they did not authorize charges that appeared on their phone bills.
According to the FTC, Alyon installed a modem-dialing program onto consumers' computers that would disconnect their Internet connections and reattach them to its own network, billing them $4.99 per minute to view pornographic Web sites.
The redialing software was installed onto consumers' computers when they clicked on a button indicating that they agreed to terms of access.
Many consumers complained that they did not authorize the charges and had trouble getting disputes resolved, the FTC said. Some consumers who never downloaded the software were also billed because of a faulty billing process, the FTC said.
Along with abandoning the disputed charges, Alyon agreed to explain its billing practices more clearly and provide a straightforward way for consumers to resolve complaints.
Alyon, which had no immediate comment, did not admit guilt as part of the settlement.