The Indian company suspended this week by antivirus company Avast for mis-selling support contracts during customer phone calls has apologised and offered to refund users unhappy with the service.

The allegation made earlier this week by respected security blogger Brian Krebs was a serious one. Staff working for iYogi had tried to dupe him during a support call into buying an expensive support contract by falsely claiming his PC was experiencing technical problems.

The same staff had also tried to persuade him to upgrade from Avast’s Free antivirus software to a paid version on spurious grounds.

“[This organisation’s] sales tactics are practically indistinguishable from those employed by peddlers of fake antivirus software or “scareware,” was Krebs’s damning judgment.

The comment is particularly uncomfortable because Avast and ESET have recently mentioned Indian-based cold-calling scams targetting their customers. There is no suggestion that iYogi is connected to these calls but the timing is embarrassing.

Avast reacted yesterday by suspending iYogi’s support services pending an investigation into the allegations, issuing a public statement expressing its shock at the accusations.

The company at the heart of the controversy, iYogi, has now apologised for events, blaming it on a small number of staff.

“In this case it went awry with an over-zealous sales person,” iYogi president of global sales Larry Gordon told Techworld. “Some people will leave the company, some will be re-trained,” he said.

The staff involved had abused the company’s commission-based sales culture and had not understood its corporate culture, he said.

Gordon described the affair as iYgogi’s “Tylenol moment” (a reference to Johnson & Johnson’s troubled 1982 US product recall). Anyone who felt they had bought unnecessary support would “get their money back.”

The company also handled support for Total Defense (formerly CA Technologies) but no customers of its product were affected by the mis-selling issue, Gordon said.

UK Avast customers can contact iYogi either direct or through the Avast support address, [email protected]. US customers could try the same support address or refer to the US iYogi website.

Avast filed for a US IPO last December. Its Free Antivirus program is reckoned by some to be the world's most popular.