LifeLock ads are a talk radio staple. Celebrity endorsements from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others keep the identity protection service in front of millions and millions of right-leaning listeners weekly.
Virginia Attorney Ken Cuccinelli is a favorite with political conservatives. Thanks to his high profile lawsuits against the Obama administration and the EPA, he's gained stature with the same demographic that frequents talk radio.
But when Cuccinelli assumed his post in 2010, his Office was already investigating LifeLock's business practices. The investigation culminated in a class action lawsuit pitting the Federal Trade Commission and 34 other Attorney's General against LifeLock; a suit that ultimately cost the company $12 million.
I was able to catch up with Mr. Cuccinelli and get an insider's perspective. Here, then, is an attorney's eye view of the LifeLock lawsuit:
The problem, according to Cuccinelli, was not so much that LifeLock offered a flawed service, but that they were misrepresenting the level of security that they in fact provided. For years, LifeLock had been claiming to be an airtight guarantee against all forms of identity theft. LifeLock's service is most effective against new account fraud, which is why members can expect an alert when someone tries to open up a new account in their name. But according to the Federal Trade Commission, the service wasn't as effective in securing customers against the abuse of existing accounts, nor did it offer much protection against medical and employment related fraud.
- LifeLock protects against (identity theft). Guaranteed.
- Please know that we are the first company to prevent identity theft from occurring.
"Such claims," Cuccinelli said, "are ludicrous on the face."
As a result of the lawsuit, LifeLock was faced with two alternatives; dial back on their advertising claims or bring their service up to the level of security they were claiming to provide. "Obviously, it was easier for them to do the first," he remarked.
The Attorney General told me that he expects consumers to kick tires before they invest in a product. But that doesn't exonerate companies from making false claims. This entire lawsuit, in his judgment, comes back to an issue of consumer protection.