Linux fans who resent paying for a pre-installed Microsoft Windows operating system or other Windows software that they don't want and won't use should be perking up, at least in Europe.
At the end of September a French court ordered Acer to refund to a notebook buyer a total of 311.85 euros out of a total price of 599 euros (135.20 euros for Windows XP Home, 60 euros for Microsoft Works, 40.99 euros for PowerDVD, 38.66 euros for Norton Antivirus and 37 euros for NTI CD Maker) - plus another 650 euros for, amongst other things, legal costs.
And now, an Italian court has recently told Hewlett-Packard to refund to the buyer of a HP Compaq notebook computer, which had Microsoft software pre-installed, a total of 140 euros - 90 euros for Windows XP, and 50 euros for Windows Works 8.
That was apparently based on Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA) which includes the statement "IF YOU DO NOT AGREE, DO NOT INSTALL, COPY, OR USE THE SOFTWARE; YOU MAY RETURN IT TO YOUR PLACE OF PURCHASE FOR A FULL REFUND, IF APPLICABLE". It seems that the court rejected HP's argument that the licensing conditions had been unilaterally set by Microsoft; HP must have known about those conditions.
While no similar court rulings are known from Germany, there has been a newspaper report about a customer who ordered a notebook from Dell Deutschland in March 2007. They replaced the preinstalled Windows with Linux, and managed to get a credit of 78 euros for the Windows operating system and a (further unspecified) Microsoft program - without having to sue for it.
I wonder if any Linux user in the UK or US has tried to return unwanted software and asked their supplier for a refund for the Windows programs, and if so what happened? (obviously it's a good idea to do that as soon as possible after you get the computer - don't wait months if you're going to try it!). I'd be interested to know if anyone has heard anything about this or tried it themselves, and what luck they had?
The Italian buyer in that court case has posted a "fill in the blanks" letter asking for a refund, English translation here. I've no idea if it could be used outside of Italy, but hey it's a starting point if anyone wants to have a go (remembering that this isn't legal advice etc, I haven't a clue if it would work outside of Italy or France!). Still, they've struck a blow for consumers and Linux users - if you're a Linux-only user, why should you have pay for software you don't intend to use just because the vendor insists on preinstalling it with the PC hardware you buy? (I use both Windows and Linux, myself.)