A lesson in Office licensing

Here's a hypothetical scenario: your postman has just delivered a package containing your latest online purchase, a copy of Microsoft Office. Suddenly, up pops a message asking you to read and agree to the Microsoft EULA (end user licence agreement) before the installation can proceed. On a whim, you decide to read every word -- there's got to be a first time for everything -- and off you go.

Delving deep into the small print, you come across something you don't like the look of -- let's say it's the clause reading "you may not copy or post any templates available through internet-based services on any network computer or broadcast it in any media".

Now that's a problem. You were planning to upload some of the Excel templates to your website. You decide you can't agree to this condition, so you check 'I do not agree'. The installer promptly stops and there you are with over £400 (AUD$998) of software you can't use. No worries, you'll simply return it to the retailer for a refund. After all, consumer law says you can return goods purchased online within seven days of delivery for a full refund. You don't even have to give a reason. You contact the supplier by email, only to be told that you can't send anything back -- they don't do refunds on opened software packs.

I put this scenario to Microsoft's U.K. press office, which escalated the problem to the U.S. But Microsoft HQ still felt unable to comment. Now I have a feeling I've asked a question nobody wants to answer. It's true that Microsoft doesn't have a contract with the end user -- not one that can be covered by U.K. consumer law anyway -- and so the retailer is responsible for product returns. And it's true that the EULAs are on the web, so people can read them before making a purchase. But that's not the point. You're buying a hard copy of a product.

I spoke to a senior IT lawyer -- one who specializes in this sort of thing -- and he said: "Normally the question of the shrink terms is the other way round. Microsoft, or whoever, trying to find reasons that there is an effective contract between the software company and the customer, so the software company can impose its terms, be that limitations, exclusions of liability, licence scope and so forth. Here we have it the other way. 'Cake and eat it' springs to mind."

My answer to this is simple. I've suggested to Microsoft that it prints the essential points from the EULA on the back of the software box with a clear warning that "your use of this software is governed by the terms and conditions mentioned above. If you are not prepared to be bound by all of these, please do not buy the software".

Will the company take my advice? Time will tell. But in the meantime, don't make the mistake of thinking you'll automatically get a refund for the software you bought in good faith. And read through EULAs on the web before you buy expensive software -- it could save you a fortune.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Thomas

PC Advisor (UK)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?