Software bundling faces liquidation in the European Union

Hardware makers who insist on installing software that their punters don’t want might find themselves having to offer refunds.

A French court has ordered Lenovo to write a cheque to one of its customers who did not want Windows installed.

According to the French campaign group No More Racketware,  Stéphane Petrus’s four year court battle could open the way for PC buyers elsewhere in Europe to obtain refunds for bundled software they don’t want,

Petrus bought a Lenovo 3000 N200 laptop from French retailer Cybertek in December 2007. The PC had Microsoft Windows Vista and other software installed on it, none of which Petrus wanted.

He applied for a refund from Lenovo under a French law forbidding the sale of one product to be tied to the sale of another. However in November 2008, the court rejected his request, telling him that if he didn’t want to pay for the copy of Windows, he should have returned the PC.

But this was overturned by the Court of Cassation two years later on appeal, and sent back to the court in Aix en Provence for retrial, on the grounds that the lower court had not considered whether the case was covered by the provisions of the 2005 European Union directive on unfair commercial practices.

Judge Jean-Marie Dubouloz ordered Lenovo to pay Petrus legal costs of €1,000 (around US$1,300), damages of €800 and to refund the cost of the Windows license.

Petrus thought the cost of the software was €404.81, but the court found that excessive, given that he had paid €597 for the PC and software.

No More Racketware welcomed the ruling, saying it symbolised the crumbling of the bundling of hardware and software in France.

However it pointed out that since the case was won using an European directive regulating unfair commercial practices, it meant that it could set a legal precedent in other EU countries too.

Writing in his bog Frédéric Cuif, attorney for Petrus, said that the the ruling was a step in the right direction.