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January 12, 2015

More TurboTax Pricing Games

Filed under: Computers,Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

  TurboTax DeluxeOur trusty mouse caused a little bit of a stir with last week’s story about Intuit yanking out key functionality from TurboTax Deluxe, and selling it back to customers via a $30 – $40 upgrade charge. There are now over 1400 one-star reviews on Amazon with consumers fuming over the changes and charges.

Game 1:

In the course of testing TurboTax Deluxe 2014, we discovered something curious with respect to the price they were charging for upgrades. If you needed to enter detailed information about investment transactions, for example, the program threw up this roadblock and advised that you would have to upgrade to “Premier” for an extra charge of $30.

$30 Upgrade to Premier

When going back to that section subsequently, on occasion the program would change the price for the required upgrade:

*MOUSE PRINT:

$25 upgrade fee

The fee dropped from $30 to $25. Going back another time, however, it was back up to $30. There was no rhyme or reason for the varying prices. Also, in the self-employment income section, the user is alternately presented with either a $30 or $40 up-charge to go from TurboTax Deluxe to “Home & Business.” Maybe Intuit is testing various price points to see what amount will be most palatable for users.



Game 2:

Another strange pricing disparity cropped up last week on the TurboTax website. When we first checked prices for downloading the desktop version from their website on December 25, this was the pricing shown:

ttpricing-12-25small

TT Deluxe was $59.99, with federal and state forms included.

Roughly two weeks later, on January 9th, it looked like things had changed.

*MOUSE PRINT:

TT prices 1-9

Now it says that for $59.99 you seemingly only get the federal return because it says “state additional.” Clicking on the state additional link does not exactly clarify matters.

state additional

Well, which is it, Intuit? Is state included or not? There is a big difference between “state additional” and “additional state.”



Game 3:

And one last example. In the pricing charts above, buying TurboTax directly from Intuit seems to give customers a $10 discount off what appears to be the regular or list price. According to both Amazon and Target, however, the “list price” for each of the four editions of TurboTax 2014 is $10 lower than Intuit represents. For example, while Intuit says that TurboTax Deluxe is regularly $69.99 but is now on sale for $59.99, Amazon and Target say that $59.99 is the list price for TurboTax Deluxe to start with. Hmmm.

• • •

January 6, 2015

Warning for TurboTax Users

Filed under: Computers,Finance,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:17 am

 

INTUIT STRIPS TURBOTAX DELUXE OF SUPPORT
FOR KEY TAX FORMS

Many Buyers Will Have to Make Costly Upgrades

(Boston) — Regular purchasers of Intuit’s TurboTax Deluxe, the top selling desktop tax preparation software program, are in for a nasty surprise this year. The company has stripped the program of key functionality to easily report income from investments, self-employment, and rents, thereby requiring affected users to upgrade to more expensive versions.

“What a clever ploy. Yank out key parts of the program that people have used for years, and then charge them more money to get back the missing pieces,” commented ConsumerWorld.org founder Edgar Dworsky. “Imagine the reaction of perhaps millions of regular TurboTax users who may learn partway through doing their taxes that they have to pay an upgrade fee just to get the same functionality they’ve always enjoyed. They are not going to be happy.”

The full interview sections (Q&As) for filling out Schedule C (self-employment income and all expenses), Schedule D (investments), and Schedule E (rental and partnership income) are no longer in TurboTax Deluxe ($59.99 list). The complete Q&A Schedule D (with importation of brokerage data) and Schedule E are now only available in their “Premier” and higher editions ($89.99), and the full Schedule C is only available in their “Home & Business” version ($99.99). In-program upgrades from TurboTax Deluxe will cost users an additional $30 to $40, as the warning below indicates, when, for example, trying to enter investments.

*MOUSE PRINT:

$30 upgrade warning
Upgrade notice and roadblock in program when users try to enter investment income


Consumers are already voicing complaints. The product has gotten hundreds of one-star ratings on Amazon, with many posting negative reviews and expressing outrage.

Company executives say the changes were made to provide “consistency” between their online and desktop product lines. They are quick to point out that the raw forms for Schedules C, D, and E can still be filled out manually in “forms mode” in TurboTax Deluxe, but they don’t recommend it. The company acknowledges that the full question-and-answer section for filling out these forms is missing, and that by using forms mode, validation checking is not done, and taxpayers cannot file their taxes electronically.

Dworsky believes that Intuit did not do enough to alert regular purchasers of the product to the changes in advance, thus depriving them of the opportunity to shop for competing products or to buy the right product to start with. Many consumers, he says, have been using TurboTax for 10 or 20 years and just naturally grab the one they have always used.

*MOUSE PRINT:

While Intuit provides an online and back-of-package checklist of which version is best for which types of taxpayers, it is essentially similar to the one they used last year when there was full inclusion of all the schedules, and thus it is easily overlooked or misunderstood.

A more attention-grabbing disclosure like this mockup, Dworsky suggests, would not have been missed:

TurboTax Change Notice mockup

In the wake of complaints, Intuit is quietly offering free upgrades to some aggrieved users. Dworsky, however, is calling on them to do that for everyone automatically because of the abrupt changes, both as a goodwill gesture and as clear notice of the changes henceforth.

Meanwhile, recognizing an opportunity to grab market share, H&R Block, makers of H&R Block Deluxe, a competing program, is offering affected TurboTax users who have already purchased the program (Basic or Deluxe) a free copy of their software, which they say has not been crippled. To get it, consumers need to email a copy of their invoice, name, address, phone, and Windows or Mac designation to SwitchtoBlock@hrblock.com .

Intuit is not new to controversy or nickel-and-diming tactics. In 2008, it added a $9.95 fee to print or e-file a second return from TurboTax, but quickly rescinded the charge following a storm of criticism. And for years, it has arbitrarily “sunset” (deactivated) the online downloading and electronic bill payment functions of its popular Quicken checkbook software, thus requiring consumers to buy a new version of the program every three years.

Your COMMENTS are welcome below.

• • •

December 15, 2014

Click vs. Brick Follow-up

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:14 am

 Last week, Consumer World presented the results of its survey of prices on a retailer’s website compared to the prices charged for the same item at its brick-and-mortar store locations. The prices were not always the same, and web prices were not always lower.

To emphasize the point that you always have to check prices in both places, online and in-store, here is an example of the inconsistency week to week of pricing between the two.

In the original story, we showed a huge price difference on a Dell computer at Staples.com versus at Staples stores:

Staples week one prices

Just before Black Friday, the price online was $429.99, but in-store it was $180 higher — $609.99!

Fast forward to last week, December 7. The price differences reversed.

*MOUSE PRINT:

in-store week 2

—–Versus—–

week 2 online

This time, the in-store price was $130 lower than the online price. Go figure.

As we said, there is no rhyme or reason to the price variations. You can’t predict whether the online price will be cheaper or more expensive than the in-store price, so you have to check both each time.

• • •

January 27, 2014

Office Depot Offers $800 of “Free” (?) Software

Filed under: Computers,Electronics,Finance,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:58 am

  Every year, the office supply superstores offer either cash rebates or free software as an inducement to buy tax preparation software (like TurboTax and H&R Block) from their store.

This year, as in previous years, Office Depot is making a generous offer of $800 of free software.

Office Depot

But, according to Mouse Print* reader WAE, the promised rebates did not cover the full purchase price of some of the software titles.

Checking the Office Depot website for the purchase price and the promised rebate revealed he was right!

*MOUSE PRINT:


Office Depot
[Click reconstructed image above to enlarge, then click again]

Mouse Print* wrote to Office Depot’s media relations department asking them why they were charging money for supposedly free software and how they were going to correct the problem for customers they overcharged.

Office Depot did not respond.

• • •

November 4, 2013

How Crapware Gets on Your Computer

Filed under: Computers,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

MrConsumer’s friend always complains about pop-ups and unfamiliar toolbars taking over his browser. I show him how to remove most of them, and advise him to be more careful when installing new software.

Unfortunately, MrConsumer didn’t follow his own advice recently when downloading and installing a utility package to help get a new movie editing program working properly. The movie software company advised me to go to c|net, a respected website owned by CBS, to download the codec package I needed.

c|net has you download a small file first, and then the larger one. As I was installing the program, you first see this screen:

cnet 1

I then proceeded to the next step and chose “full installation (recommended)” since I knew little about these codecs and the options/settings.

*MOUSE PRINT:

cnet 2

Lurking near the top of the next screen were the words “special offer” and in the description of “full installation” was a notation that a “Sweetpacks” toolbar would be installed in my browser and my homepage would be switched to a different search company. Didn’t see that, and like most us, just clicked “next step.”

That next step brought up an end user license screen that most us just click and accept without reading.

*MOUSE PRINT:

cnet3

This time, I noticed “special offer” and the fine print said I was agreeing to install the Lucky Leaf toolbar and to get offers and coupons. I hit decline. But those who didn’t see that, probably most of us, would just hit “accept” figuring if you don’t, you won’t be able to install the software.

The next screen had yet another “accept” button to agree to “terms and conditions.”

*MOUSE PRINT:

cnet 4

And it had another “special offer” for a plug-in for faster browsing and turning text into links. I hit “decline.”

After a configuration screen came up with options that I clearly didn’t understand, I abandoned the installation and cancelled it.

Sure enough, and to my surprise, when I opened Internet Explorer, my Consumer World homepage was replaced with AVG search. What? Where did that come from? I changed the homepage back to Consumer World, and disabled AVG search under “add-ons.” When I re-opened IE, now Sweetpacks was my homepage. GRRRRR. Went back in and found it, and removed it.

So even having cancelled the installation of the main program, all of this crapware had already been installed on my computer.

The lesson is that we simply can no longer click “next, next, next” when installing any software, even from what you believe to be a reputable source, because these programs are being preloaded with crapware.

• • •
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