Windows refund


Windows refund

The "Windows refund" is a refund claimed by a user after purchasing a computer with the Microsoft Windows operating system pre-installed on it. The refund is issued by the computer manufacturer, or occasionally the retailer, for the copy of Microsoft Windows alone, rather than the whole computer. Microsoft's dominance in desktop computing operating systems and a frequent lack of understanding on the manufacturer's or retailer's part often makes this refund difficult (but not impossible) to obtain.

Contents

The "Windows tax"

A common complaint[1][2] comes from those who want to purchase a computer without a copy of Windows pre-installed and without paying extra for the license either so that another operating system can be used or because a license was already acquired elsewhere, such as through the MSDN Academic Alliance program.[3] Because free operating systems are an increasingly viable alternative to Windows, Microsoft attempts to convince original equipment manufacturers to supply all of their computers with Windows pre-installed by presenting their dominance in computer sales[4][5] and engaging in private agreements,[6] maximizing the number of copies of Windows sold to OEMs but making it harder for customers to receive their refund: because the price of the license varies depending on discounts given to the OEM and because there is no similar computer that the OEM offers without Windows, there is no immediate way to find the size of the refund.

While many computer manufacturers have begun to offer specific product ranges with Linux pre-installed (these include HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, MSI, Intel, and others), they typically strongly lack in this selection.[7][8] Their models are mostly limited to high-end workstations and enterprise servers or budget domestic models. Dell sells Linux pre-installed on home systems on a limited number of models and configurations, and they have in the past warned prospective buyers that "The main thing to note is that when you choose open source you don't get a Windows operating system".[9]

Formally, computers with free operating systems can be obtained,[10] but practically most large computer vendors continue to bundle Microsoft Windows with the majority of the personal computers in their ranges. The Findings of Fact in the United States Microsoft antitrust case of 1998 established that "One of the ways Microsoft combats piracy is by advising OEMs that they will be charged a higher price for Windows unless they drastically limit the number of PCs that they sell without an operating system pre-installed. In 1998, all major OEMs agreed to this restriction."[6] This has been called the "Windows tax" or "Microsoft tax" by opposing computer users.[11][12]

The "Windows tax" can altogether be avoided by experienced users, albeit with more effort and time, by assembling a computer from individually purchased parts, thus not buying it from an OEM. Even to the most advanced of users, however, this is difficult if the computer to be built is a laptop. Personally assembled "white box" machines can be sold casually through small vendors or between friends or on the Internet.

Some smaller OEMs and larger retail chains such as System76 have taken specializing in Linux-based systems to their advantage from major suppliers' paucity of non-Windows offerings. Some Linux distributors also run 'partnership' programs to endorse suppliers of machines with their system preinstalled.[13]

Boot locking concerns

With Microsoft requiring that OEMs support UEFI secure boot on their products to qualify for the Windows 8 Logo Program,[14] concerns have been raised that OEMs might ship systems that do not to allow users to disable secure boot or install signing keys for alternative operating systems.[15][16] Such systems would be unable to boot any non-Windows operating system (unless that operating system was signed and its keys included with the computer),[17] further complicating the issue of Windows refunds. While Microsoft claims the OEMs would be free to decide which keys to include and how to manage them,[18] competing OS vendors' relative lack of influence on the desktop OS market compared to Microsoft might mean that, even if signed versions of their operating systems were available, they might face difficulties getting hardware vendors to include their keys, especially if end users won't be able to manage those keys themselves.[19]

License refund policy

According to Microsoft's End User License Agreement, the end user can return Windows for a refund by refusing the terms of the license:[20]

By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine their return policy for a refund or credit.

Vendors, however, are allowed by Microsoft to avoid this refund by requiring that the computer be returned altogether, despite this being a violation of consumer protection law in many countries.[21][22][23]
Microsoft clarified the EULA with the release of Windows 7:[24]

By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine its return policy. You must comply with that policy, which might limit your rights or require you to return the entire system on which the software is installed.

Acer has a policy of charging for the provision of the refund such that the balance received by the customer is as low as €30.[25] In other cases, vendors were trying to enforce non-disclosure agreements on the customers who requested refunds.[26][27]

License refund cases

Toshiba

  • In 1998, Geoffrey Bennett purchased a Toshiba Notebook with Windows preinstalled, and after much struggle, Geoffrey received a AU$110 check from Toshiba as a refund.[28]
  • In 2010, Thanasis Boudalis received €50 from the Toshiba dealership in Greece, for a Toshiba Satellite laptop with preinstalled Windows 7 Home Premium. After consulation with Toshiba Europe, the dealership immediately agreed to pay that amount. The whole process required 5-6 emails which did not concern whether or not the refund was to be paid, but how the dealership would verify that copy's S/N: the client objected their request of having to visit their offices in person and also to having his PC inspected. In less than two months the money was delivered in cash, with a receipt mentioning "Refund based on European directive".[29]

Dell

  • In 2003, an Australian man, Simon Newton, succeeded in obtaining a refund of $77 from Dell for Windows XP bundled with a laptop. He was also told that he could keep the copy of Windows XP [30].
  • In 2006, a British man, Dave Mitchell, purchased a Dell Inspiron 640m laptop bundled with Microsoft Windows XP Home SP2 preinstalled, but did not accept Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA). Within one week of requesting a refund from Dell, the customer received a "goodwill" refund of GBP £47 (£55.23 including VAT) from Dell for a "no Windows" option, as the copy of the system was an "unused product" according to the software license agreement. Dell had not asked for the installation medium to be returned and commented that although it doesn't have a Windows refund program, giving a refund in an individual case isn't forbidden either.[31][32]
  • In the same period, a Swiss man received a refund of about CHF 150 from Dell. The laptop model and refund procedure was the same.[33]
  • In 2007, Serge Wroclawski, an American Dell customer purchased a laptop and received $52.50 refund from Dell for unused Windows bundled to the computer.[34]
  • According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German Dell customer replaced the preinstalled Windows with Linux and was credited the amount of €78 for the operating system and a further unspecified Microsoft program.[35] According to ynetnews, an Israeli Dell customer received a refund of $137 for an unused Windows Vista, after filing a small court claim. As it was reported[36] a Russian customer received a refund of $73.90 from BenQ for an unused preinstalled copy of Microsoft Windows Vista. It took him approximately 4 months.
  • In October 2009, after two months and 14 e-mails of negotiations with Dell representatives, Graeme Cobbett received £70 ($115) refund from Dell for rejected Windows Vista Home Premium license, as he intended to use Linux Mint on his Dell Studio 1555 laptop.[37]
  • In 2010 €96.78 was refunded to a Belgian customer[38]. He contacted Dell support online asking politely for a refund for the license of Microsoft Windows and Works. He stressed he was a happy customer and didn’t want to return the laptop. He didn’t accept the EULA and asked for an address to send the Windows restore DVDs. A Dell representative agreed on a specified refund in 5 to 7 working days. The aforementioned amount was refunded into the VISA account of the customer.

Acer

  • A French court ordered Acer to refund the purchase price of preinstalled laptop software amounting to €135.20 for Windows XP Home.[39]
  • Acer UK appear to have a procedure in place, the value of Windows 7 starter being £20[citation needed].
  • Acer US has a Windows refund program where a user can ship a computer with an unused copy of Windows to the Acer service center and have the computer returned without Windows for a refund. [40]

HP

  • In a civil suit an Italian court rejected HP's argument that the licensing conditions had been set unilaterally by Microsoft and ordered HP to reimburse a customer the amount of €90 for an unused copy of Windows XP bundled with a Compaq notebook.[35] The court was of the opinion that HP had to know about the conditions, because they most likely constituted part of the agreement between them and Microsoft. It also found the fact that computers without an operating system are available on the market to be irrelevant.
  • In July 2008, an American HP customer from Hawaii was able to receive a $200 refund from HP for unused Windows Vista, after going through a lot of time consuming interactions with HP representatives.[41]
  • In August 2011, an American HP customer was refunded $20 for the copy Windows 7 Home Premium bundled with the laptop, after only three days of negotiations [42]

Lenovo

  • While in general Lenovo tries to deny the availability of Windows tax refund,[43] in 2008 a customer of an official German Lenovo dealer claimed and received €30 from Lenovo Germany for preinstalled Windows XP Tablet Edition bundled to the Lenovo X60 laptop which he bought.[44]
  • In August 2008, Mr. Kamil Páral, a Lenovo ČR customer, tried in accordance with the EULA of the Windows Vista Business OEM software, to exercise his right to return the license for using the preinstalled operating system from Microsoft because he wanted to use Linux on his computer. In accordance with the terms of the EULA he contacted Lenovo ČR for refund, and after some lengthy negotiations with representatives of Lenovo ČR's technical support and management, he was offered financial compensation for returning the license in the amount of CZK 1950 ($130, €78), pending his acceptance of the non-disclosure agreement. Mr. Páral decided not to accept the offer under such conditions, and forgo the offered compensation. He published an account of his experiences on http://abclinuxu.cz. The editors of the website decided to reward Mr. Páral for publishing the article by paying him an author's royalty in the same amount as was the offered compensation for returning the license.[45][46]
  • In August 2009, Danish programmer Poul-Henning Kamp asked Lenovo for a refund of a Windows Vista licence preinstalled on a newly purchased laptop. Lenovo refused the claim. Mr. Kamp then filed suit against Lenovo and subsequently lost the case on October 13, 2010.[47]
  • In September 2009, Mr. F. Huang from Hong Kong bought a Thinkpad X200 preloaded with Windows Vista. He asked Lenovo for a refund of the Windows OS. Lenovo Hong Kong refused to simply give a refund, but agreed to provide a refund in condition that Mr. Huang would return his X200 laptop and take a new X200 laptop without preinstalled OS as replacement. After three months' negotiation, Mr. Huang returned this laptop to Lenovo, and received a refund of HK$697(US$90), a new hardware-equivalent x200 and some extra hardware components.[48]
  • In March 2010, Otto Teixeira was refunded R$ 229,00 for a Windows XP Home OEM preinstalled on his netbook. Lenovo Brasil first claimed that an OEM license couldn't be refunded as it was part of the computer, but agreed to refund him about a month later. Teixeira took advice from customer rights' organizations during the process.[49]
  • In November 2010, Mr. J. Petrus from France successfully won the case against Lenovo which previously refused to pay him the Windows tax refund. The Court of Cassation ruled in favor of Mr. J. Petrus, stating that the bundling was unlawful based on Directive 2005/29/EC.[50][51]

Other Microsoft products

  • Those who were forced to pay for Windows Home Server can also be eligible for a refund if they have not used the software before removing it from their systems. This version of Windows usually comes bundled with headless servers, which are capable of running many other operating systems. Nevertheless it is often hard or impossible to acquire this hardware without a bundled copy of Windows Home Server. In one example of such a refund the owner of a Fujitsu Siemens Scaleo Home Server was refunded $68 [52] in September 2009.

Public response

The difficulties associated with getting a Windows refund from OEMs have evoked a strong response from the public. Websites have been created for the specific purpose of spreading information about the issue and educating others on their options for getting a refund[53]. In the past, public events (such as the Windows refund day in 1999[54] which gained significant media attention[55][56][57][58][59]) have also been organised, with people expressing their displeasure towards Microsoft and computer OEMs for the bundling of Windows with new computers. The overall goal of such events has been to get OEMs to expand their selection of computers without a copy of Windows pre-installed, with the additional goal of getting them to revise and improve their refund policies while the first goal has not been met.[60]

See also

References

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