Microsoft sued over refunds on Windows copies

A group of users in Italy is suing Microsoft over what it believes to be difficulties and unfair practices in "returning" Windows from new PCs.

A class action lawsuit against Microsoft has been filed in Italy by a group claiming that it's too difficult to procure a refund for the copies of Windows that come bundled in new PCs.

Windows 7 boxes
Microsoft

The case, which was filed in Milan by the Associazione per i Diritti degli Utenti e Consumatori (ADUC), and picked up by The Register earlier today, points to Microsoft's end user license agreement (EULA)--as outlined in various copies of Windows--noting that once users turn their computer on and begin to use it, they are no longer able to return the software for a refund.

Furthermore, the group says consumers who buy computers with OEM copies of Windows installed have more difficulties in getting a refund than those who purchased a retail copy of the OS. The lawsuit notes that users who buy and install the OS itself, but that don't agree to the EULA, are entitled to a return from the place where they bought it. OEM buyers, however, are at the whim of their system seller or installer for a refund, which has historically proven to be a difficult process, it says.

To avail these issues, the class action suit seeks a hearing and also to nullify the section of the EULA that requires users go to OEMs instead of Microsoft for refunds.

When asked for comment, a Microsoft representative said it should be pointed out the company's licensing agreements with OEMs are non-exclusive, and that users are "free to purchase PCs with a non-Microsoft operating system, or without any operating system," but that having Windows preinstalled "provides the best user experience." Even so, the represenative reiterated that any returns or refunds still have to be handled through the OEM, and not Microsoft itself.

"Customers who purchase a PC from an OEM with Windows preinstalled and then wish to return the PC and/or the preinstalled software should consult the OEM's return/refund policies," the spokesperson said.

Twelve years ago, a group of Linux users in the United States sought refunds for OEM copies of Windows as part of a campaign called "Windows Refund Day." Instead of going to OEMs though, as Microsoft outlines in its EULA, those users went directly to the company's offices in Silicon Valley. Even then though, Microsoft pointed users back to the PC makers, saying "when a consumer purchases a new PC, the license for Windows resides with that specific PC maker, and each PC maker has its own process for working with customers on licensing issues."

You can see copy of the lawsuit, which is in Italian and is a PDF, here. There's also the group's statement, also in Italian, here.

Update at 12:33 p.m. PT: A Microsoft spokesperson outlined its current policies to CNET. These have been reflected in the updated version of the above article:

"Consumers are free to purchase PCs with a non-Microsoft operating system, or without any operating system. However, consumers benefit from the pre-installation of Windows on PCs. It provides the best user experience from the time a consumer first turns on the PC, and saves consumers the substantial effort and resources associated with having to install an operating system that functions properly.

Computer manufacturers (known as original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs) are free to sell PCs preinstalled with another operating system or no operating system at all.

It's also important to note that Microsoft's agreements with OEMs are nonexclusive. Customers who purchase a PC from an OEM with Windows preinstalled and then wish to return the PC and/or the preinstalled software should consult the OEM's return/refund policies."

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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