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Microsoft, Symantec sued over software licences

Return scheme unlawful in California, it's claimed
Tue Feb 11 2003, 14:09
A CLASS ACTION WAS FILED against Microsoft, Symantec, CompUSA, Best Buy and others last week, alleging that the firms engaged in unlawful and unfair business practices.

The action, filed in Marin County, California by Cathy Baker and on behalf of the "General Public of the State of California", alleges these companies worked together to sell software without allowing customers to see the terms and conditions of the licences before sale.

That means that consumers are faced with agreeing to those terms and conditions only when the software is installed.

And the action claims that customers who do not agree to the Ts&Cs, not only can't use the software but they are forbidden to return it to the shops they bought it in.

That, alleges the plaintiff, imposes "hurdles and unfair burdens" on consumers and leads to delays and additional expenses in getting refunds.

Shrinkwrap licensing practices unlawfully conceal contract terms from the consumers it is alleged. And the suit further alleges that Microsoft and Symantec return policies are onerous.

The suit specifically mentions that Windows XP upgrade software mean customers must agree to provisions in the State of Washington, contrary to Californian public policy.

Baker has a long list of alleged wrongs that need righting. The list includes the removal of all terms and conditions, a printed copy of the Ts&Cs to be displayed with the software in shops, a change in its return policies, and an order to restore full compensation to all consumers who have bought such software in the last four years.

And "punitive damages for actual fraud committed with malice, fraud and oppression". µ


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