Computer security firm Symantec Corp. and one of its contractors face a certified class action brought by consumers who say the companies duped them into buying “download insurance” when the same service was available for free.

U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota Judge John Tunheim granted class status on March 31 in Khoday v. Symantec Corp.

The complaint alleges Symantec and Digital River Inc., a Minnesota-based company that builds and manages electronic-commerce websites, led consumers to believe they would be out of luck if they didn’t have insurance if their computer crashed and they needed to download the Norton security software again.

But the plaintiffs alleged the software could be accessed and downloaded at no cost from Symantec’s website. Not only were customers not informed of this, they were not even asked if they wanted the “extended download insurance” or “Norton download insurance,” which automatically was charged to them when they signed up for security protection.

Between 2005 and 2011, the software insurance—which cost in the $5.99 to $10.00 range—was estimated to have been sold 15 million times, according to the complaint and Tunheim’s order.

Plaintiffs accuse California-based Symantec and Digital River of violating consumer protection laws in California and Minnesota, as well as claims of unjust enrichment against both companies.

Plaintiffs’ counsel are Douglas McNamara and Andrew Friedman of Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll in Washington; Richard Wentz of The Wentz Law Firm in Newbury Park, Calif.; and Karen Riebel and Kate Baxter-Kauf of Lockridge Grindal Nauen in Minneapolis.

Counsel for Symantec are Patrick Gibbs of Latham & Watkins in Menlo Park, Calif.; and Steve Gaskins if Gaskins, Bennett Birrell, Schupp in Minneapolis. Counsel for Digital River Inc., are Charles Smith, Amy Van Gelder and Jessica Frogge of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Chicago; and Steve Gaskins of Gaskins, Bennett, Birrell, Schupp in Minneapolis.

Lisa Hoffman is a contributing writer for The National Law Journal.