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Consumers have no right to buy a PC without an OS, European court rules

Peter Sayer | Sept. 8, 2016
A Frenchman who sought a refund of the cost of the Windows OS bundled with his new laptop is out of luck

The CJEU ruled that it's legal to bundle PCs with software without indicating their prices separately, and that offering consumers no choice but to buy the PC with the software is also legal, "unless such a practice is contrary to the requirements of professional diligence and materially distorts or is likely to materially distort the economic behavior of the average consumer with regard to the product, a matter which is for the national court to determine by taking account of the specific circumstances of the case in the main proceedings."

Average consumers would not want to install their own OS, the court found following an analysis of the market concerned. "The sale by Sony of computers with pre-installed software meets the expectations ... of a significant proportion of consumers who prefer to purchase a computer already equipped and ready for immediate use, rather than to purchase a computer and software separately," it said in a discussion of the ruling.

Its analysis of the 2005 directive determined that vendors were obliged only to indicate the total price of a bundle, which would influence the consumer's ultimate decision to buy, and not the price of each component of it.

While it's still up to the Court of Cassation to take the final decision in the case, the ruling would appear to be bad news for the people behind the "Racketiciel" (Racketware) campaign opposing the enforced bundling of software.

They had identified a number of small PC manufacturers who offered optional operating systems, and some PC manufacturers, notably Asustek Computer and Fujitsu, who would pay a fixed sum in compensation if bundled software was refused. Five agreed to pay compensation only if PCs were returned to them so they could verify the refusal of the software EULA: Acer, Packard Bell, MSI, Samsung Electronics, and Toshiba.

They found no PC manufacturer willing to refund the cost of the software, however, as none would break down the cost of their bundles' different components.

It remains to be seen whether the PC vendors that have paid compensation in the past will continue to respond to future refund requests in the wake of the CJEU's ruling.

Source: ARN 


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