Judge: TurboTax software company Intuit misled customers with claims of 'free' use

A judge with the Federal Trade Commission ruled Friday that Intuit Inc., which owns Turbo Tax, mislead customers by claiming its products are available for free. File Photo by Steve Buissinne/Pixabay

Sept. 8 (UPI) -- A judge with the Federal Trade Commission ruled Friday that Intuit, the company that produces TurboTax software, mislead customers by characterizing their product as "free" in advertisements.

Judge D. Michael Chappell said that Intuit Inc. "engaged in deceptive advertising in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act."

The ruling comes from an FTC administrative complaint filed in March 2022.

"In the complaint, FTC staff alleged that the company's ubiquitous advertisements touting their supposedly 'free' products -- some of which have consisted almost entirely of the word 'free' spoken repeatedly -- mislead consumers into believing that they can file their taxes for free with TurboTax," the FTC said in a press release Friday.

Chappell said TurboTax's so-called "free" services were ultimately not available to many potential customers and that Intuit was "prohibited from engaging in deceptive practices in the future."

"In fact, most tax filers can't use the company's 'free' service because it is not available to millions of taxpayers, such as those who get a 1099 form for work in the gig economy, or those who earn farm income. In 2020, for example, approximately two-thirds of tax filers could not use TurboTax's free product," the FTC said.

Copies of the order will be given to relevant parties for the next 20 years and the company will be required to keep strict records to ensure compliance, according to the FTC.