By Ben Glickman

The Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint against tax-preparation service H&R Block, alleging the company used deceptive marketing and unfairly deleted consumers' tax data.

The FTC's complaint specifically alleges that H&R Block customers had to contact the company by chat or phone in order to downgrade to a less expensive tax-filing product, making the downgrade more time consuming. According to the FTC, consumers can upgrade their product without contacting the company's customer service.

The FTC alleges the company would delete all tax data customers had entered before they requested the downgrade, requiring them to start from the scratch. The FTC said data transfers seamlessly when consumers upgrade to more expensive products.

The FTC complaint also alleges H&R Block marketed its services as free in advertisements and online promotions, when in fact many consumers were not eligible to use free products.

The company's free offer only applies to "simple returns," which the FTC said wasn't explained in advertisements and has had a shifting definition in recent years.

Write to Ben Glickman at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

02-23-24 1612ET