Italian class action to sue over preinstalled Windows

Group seeks money back from unwanted software

An Italian consumers association is set to mount a class-action lawsuit to obtain compensation for customers who buy PCs with preinstalled Microsoft software but who prefer not to use the Windows OS, the association's president announced Tuesday.

The lawsuit seeking the return of the cost of the unwanted Microsoft software from the manufacturers of computer hardware will be registered with a court in Florence later this week, said Vincenzo Donvito, president of ADUC (Association for the Rights of Users and Consumers).

Around 2,000 people, most of them Linux users, have already expressed interest in participating in the lawsuit, Donvito said in a telephone interview. The initiative takes advantage of a new law permitting class-action lawsuits, which went into effect on Jan. 1.

"We have been waging this battle for some years and have already won a pilot case in Florence," Donvito said. "That victory modified the situation and many producers now allow a refund, but with a difficult and complicated system. Customers have to send their computers to the manufacturers' headquarters to get the software removed and then they only receive compensation of 30 to 40 euros for a product that costs between 150 and 250 euros."

The system ended up costing consumers money and people would only do it on a point of principle, Donvito said. Private individuals who bought computers containing Microsoft software, rejected the license and left the software unused can participate in the ADUC lawsuit, which is being filed in Florence because the association has its headquarters there.

"Participation in the lawsuit is free, though people are welcome to make a voluntary contribution to the legal costs," Donvito said.

Judges in Florence will have to decide whether to accept the lawsuit, and the process could take several months, as the administrative machinery for processing the new lawsuit requests is not yet in place, Donvito said.

It will not be possible to get back more money than the actual cost of the Microsoft software, the ADUC president said. "Italian law provides for the recovery of money that has been illicitly subtracted but there is no provision for punitive damages," he said.

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