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Web firm ordered to curb deceptive ads

Bonzi Software settled a class-action suit Monday in the Superior Court of Spokane, Wash., agreeing to clearly label advertisements that appear to be computer error messages. The suit, filed in November 2002, charged the San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based software company with deceiving millions of Web surfers into clicking on its banner ads by presenting them as computer security warnings.

As part of the settlement, all future Bonzi ads presented as Microsoft dialogue boxes will contain the word "advertisement" within the banner header. The company will also discontinue the use of "fake user interfaces," such as "X" boxes that don't close the ad. Bonzi must also pay plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs. "In addition to these immediate benefits, plaintiffs are hopeful that these changes in advertising practices agreed to by Bonzi Software, will pave the way for similar corrective actions by other Internet advertisers," the plaintiffs' attorneys, Lukins & Annis, said in a statement.