Florida men sue Microsoft over 'coerced' upgrades to Windows 10

Complaint cites <i>The Terminator</i>, alleges damage to PCs by force-fed upgrade

Three Florida men have filed a lawsuit in a Florida federal court against Microsoft, charging that the company "coerced" them into upgrading to Windows 10 and that the "unintentional" upgrades damaged their PCs, resulting in lost time and money.

The three -- Al Khafaji, Ahmad Abdulreda and Robert Stahl -- were the first to sue Microsoft at the federal level for running a campaign to get Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to accept the free upgrade to Windows 10. That offer expires Friday.

"Microsoft engaged in a reckless and negligent premise with catastrophic consequences for some of Defendant's customers whose devices were rendered useless and incapable of normal recovery operations," the complaint stated. "Plaintiffs were coerced into adopting Windows 10 or had Windows 10 installed in various unintentional manners with subsequent damage to their computers after which Plaintiffs sustained unnecessary and avoidable stress, confusion, loss of time and significant monetary damage all at the hands of Defendant."

The lawsuit asked for class-action status, which would make it easy for others to join the case, and if successful, share in any awarded damages.

GeekWire first reported the case yesterday.

At issue was the year-long promotion of Windows 10's free upgrade. During the campaign, Microsoft took unprecedented steps -- some never before used by any operating system developer -- to accelerate Windows 10 adoption. Those steps included downloading the upgrade in the background to eligible PCs, setting the upgrade to automatically begin without additional user approval, and from March to June, pre-scheduling the upgrade process itself.

That last was hotly criticized because Microsoft interpreted a click on the red "X" in the pop-up as authorizing the upgrade. The interpretation was contrary to decades of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) convention, and against Microsoft's own design guidelines for third-party developers.

Microsoft repealed that interpretation with just four weeks left in the upgrade offer.

As many others have asserted in the last 12 months, the Khafaji-Abdulreda-Stahl complaint alleged that Microsoft did not give potential upgraders a way to dismiss the pitch or an obvious option for rejecting the offer.

"A great number of people have installed the Windows 10 system inadvertently or without full realization of the extent of the download," the lawsuit said. "Plaintiffs understand that the Windows 10 upgrade is reversible but insists that less than 10% of users have the expertise to reverse the process or disengage the Windows 10 promotion."

The complaint also took exception to Microsoft's characterization of the upgrade as "free," and tried to link the upgrade offer to monopolistic practices that allegedly violated antitrust law.

"With the widespread dissemination of Windows 10 the Defendant seeks to maintain its position of dominance in the marketplace," the complaint argued. "The Windows 10 system adds yet another dimension to its extant body of operating systems and in effect keeps the consumer 'in the fold' while gaining a captive audience for Defendant's ancillary products."

Lawyers for Khafaji, Abdulreda and Stahl even managed to work in a reference to the 1984 film The Terminator. "The Plaintiff's Windows 10 marketing technique is reminiscent of the story line in science fiction films like Terminator which have a scenario where the computers start functioning autonomously," the complaint read. Some users, including the plaintiffs, have claimed that their PCs were upgraded to Windows 10 without their approval or authorization, often while they were away from the computer.

Although last week's lawsuit was the first believed to have hit a federal court, it was not the only legal action taken against Microsoft's Windows 10 upgrade offer. In May, Microsoft paid California travel agent Teri Goldstein $10,000 after she won a judgment in small claims court by successfully arguing that an unauthorized upgrade to Windows 10 crippled her business's PC.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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