Investigator: Regional lockout on Kaspersky

Investigator: Regional lockout on Kaspersky

retroactive blocking causes consumer headache.


The below article was correct at time of publication in our May issue for 2013. Kaspersky Australia has been in touch with PC and Tech Authority about the region code issue to add its response.

The company confirmed that region locks had been applied for software that had been purchased from sellers outside of Australia, including websites. It says that “region blocking does not affect customers who have already activated a product. It only prevents customers from activating newly purchased licences purchased after the region lock was introduced.”

Kaspersky says that the customer was advised to obtain a refund from the point of purchase when the software couldn’t be activated. The company says that if a customer has difficulty obtaining a refund from their point of purchase, Kaspersky will work with the customer to ensure they can activate their product. It has a local support service and trained staff should be able to locate order numbers, customer details and activation codes.

Region locking and differential pricing has been in the press a lot lately, thanks to the federal government’s inquiry into technology pricing. It’s looking at why Australians pay more for their technology than people in other parts of the world and how to give Australian consumers access to more competitive pricing.

The problem’s a simple one to understand: tech companies create regional markets and sell their products at varying prices while using technological locks and restrictions to prevent products being sold and activated in more than one market.

The solution is far more complex. Copyright, the US Free Trade agreement and distribution networks are some reasons companies cite for justifying regional pricing.

Tim from Sydney wrote to Investigator because he suddenly discovered a problem with the licence for his Kaspersky security software. It’s not the first time he’s used it and he has been buying his Kaspersky Internet Security through the PC & Tech Authority online software store without incident for some years. Late last year it was time to renew, so he went ahead and did what he always did and bought online again.

“In September last year, I purchased a five-PC one-year subscription. I installed this on four PCs (at different times depending on when the previous sub expired). Everything was okay until December 2012 when the first two PCs I had installed KIS onto started showing an error.”
Tim had software installed on four PCs under one email address. “Three of them are in my house and one is a laptop I built and maintain. “Only my main PC and the laptop are getting the region block error and the other two are still working.”

The five-PC licence is intended for one account. It is valid for five activations on different devices -- desktop, laptop and so on. It’s not intended to be used for five different devices with different accounts so some people have also been caught on this point.

There is a workstation licence for using the software across multiple computers and creating different accounts. If it registers that it has been activated elsewhere it’s blocked and won’t work on any machine.

Tim had been caught because in December Kaspersky Australia activated region blocking for the activation codes for their software purchased overseas. It costs $A160 to buy the five-PC licence in Australia whereas it’s $US130 on the US site.

“It said “Activation code is invalid for this region”. I wrote to Kaspersky, but after waiting a few months they replied that there was nothing they could do to assist.”

Australian consumers are  no longer able to buy licences from overseas websites, nor buy a physical copy and activate it in Australia. The PC & Tech Authority online store has been selling Australian codes for Kaspersky products since December; however, software bought prior to this will no longer function.

Prior to this change, Kaspersky codes would work in any English-speaking territory, so a code bought from the US would work in the UK and Australia and vice versa.

To add insult to injury, many users find this out after the fact and then have to go through Kaspersky customer support to try and get to the bottom of the problem. It’s widely reported on user forums on the internet that many people don’t have good experiences trying to contact Kaspersky support, with long delays to get a response and little meaningful help offered to customers.

Tim contacted Kaspersky customer support for help. It took several months before getting any response and when he finally did the tech support confirmed that the regional lock had been applied permanently in the last few months. He was told that the case had been passed to the team leader for follow up and to go back to the site from which it was bought.

So all of this leaves Tim with Kaspersky software that won’t work and a trail of emails back and forth between himself and Kaspersky support without any resolution to the problem.

Investigator approached the Australian Kaspersky rep for an explanation but there were no details provided by our deadline.

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