17 June, 2011

hettes and giving back Windows licenses

The dutch hettes is an open source webshop. I've been talking to them as they want to ship openSUSE on their computers.

Now they bump into an issue: the well known Microsoft tax is unavoidable, even if you don't want or use it! They can't ship back the licenses as MS doesn't accept that. In effect, their customers have to pay Microsoft even though they don't use their software.

It is called Tying and illegal, but who has the financial power to do something about it? In the USA, this has been solved - MS has been ordered to accept customers who send back licenses and give them $30 for each. They don't make it easy but at least it is possible now. However, as far as I know, in NL there is no such a rule and I'm not sure about the rest of the EU either. Hettes is talking to the Department of Economics in the Netherlands but frankly, I'm not sure that'll help much.

The question I'd like to put for you all is: what can Hettes do? Is there a way to get their monies back? How can we help them with this silly situation?


  1. AFAIK 'koppelverkoop' is illegal in The Netherlands too. My advice would be to contact a lawyer - maybe somebody like @paapst knows.

  2. yes, I thought that 'koppelverkoop' was forbidden in Belgium too. But either I'm completely wrong on this, or those iphone+subscription bundles are a result of my imagination...

    Best to get advice from someone who knows, laws are too complex for ordinary people :-)

  3. They are selling Lenovo and HP.

    HP sells Probook and Elitebook with Suse or Freedos thus alternatives are available.

    As far as I know Lenovo sells Thinkpads without Windows but the batch needs to be of 20 laptops or more ordered directly from Lenovo. There is no better laptop than Thinkpad for use with Linux.

    Thinkpads also have the advantage of choice between Intel and Nvidia in BIOS thus avoiding issuese with Optimus.

    There is an annoying issue with Linux laptops though:

    If you (like me) are using integrated 3G/HSDPA the likely modem is a Gobi 2000. Now, the modem has drivers for Linux, but nobody has made a serious effort in making it work properly (hazzle-free) in the kernel. Thus it is a nightmare to get sorted out. Ubuntu PPA has a homebrew kernel that sorts this out but it really needs to be adressed properly by kernel devs. Even the GPS module works - but it's just as hard to get in to work.

    To be frank, I'm a bit surprised that when probably the most widespread HSDPA/3G/GPS modem in the world actually supply a Linux driver nobody is really bothered with making it hunky dory to use. It forced me back to Windows because I'm heavily dependent on HSDPA/3G.

  4. Similar trouble here, in the Czech Republic. Some customers do not accept EULA (one, most popular example : http://www.abclinuxu.cz/blog/kamil_paral/2008/8/vraceni-licence-windows-u-lenovo-cr (in Czech))

  5. in germany, a few years ago:

    Microsoft only taxes the systems if NO OS or of course Windows is installed. So if you install FreeDos or Linux you don't have to pay. But maybe this has changed ... The install part was important, so just deliver the computer with a openSUSE DVD was not enough.

  6. I was in contact with someone from EU competition office [1]. They were investigating but needed more input from others. I can provide you the names and e-mail addresses in private mail.

    They sued MS once because of the browser bundling and I think they are one of those that might do something again against MS.

    [1] http://ec.europa.eu/competition/index_en.html

  7. Yeah acording to this:
    EU is avare of the problem but needs more concrete proof of the crime. So if you are able to provide it ot the EU that could maybe help in some future action against Microsoft.

  8. In Italy it's a well known problem, due to the effort of a blogger who pointed out that windows EULA allow you to ask for the license money back. Unfortunately it's a very complicated procedure and in the end the one that has to refund the license is the shop (even though I think there's a way for them to re-use the returned license). Are you sure that the EULA in NL doesn't explicitly say it's possible?

  9. I do not believe that it is fair to blame Microsoft for bundling their OSes with computers. It is decision made by the computer manufacter that strives to make products that sell.

    I live in Lithuania and I am familiar with its IT market. Currently there are many computers without Windows that are being sold. For example 16 out of 28 ASUS notebooks come without Windows:


    In my opinion the problem is with manufacturers and suppliers not with software developers.

  10. Uhm, if I am not mistaken 'koppelverkoop' is (or was) indeed illegal according to belgian law.

    BUT one or two years ago someone in the EU decided that this was agains european regulations and belgium had to allow 'koppelverkoop'. Since then we have seen mobile phones for one euro + 30 or more €/month subscriptions for at least 2 years....

    Although I don't see why this last one was illegal in the first place: 'Buy a subscription for 2 years and get a mobile phone as gift" was already possible? (The difference is exaclty one euro, so I don't really see why operators were not doing this...)

  11. If I am remembering well there is an EULA in other EU countries as well. MS answers they have nothing to do with it, we should contact the shop. The shop says that they buy the PC this way from the manufacturer. The manufacturer wrote me, that they have an exclusive deal with MS only to ship their hardware with MS Windows 7. They have no chance to to refund it, otherwise they would have shipped a pc without MS Windows 7.

  12. Take a look at these pages:


    There's plenty of information out there and plenty of people who can offer advice.

    With regard to bundling goods with services, even if a phone is made available at a "discount price" where a service is purchased at the same time, various countries have introduced regulations to force the total price to be stated and the pricing to be transparent.

    It's quite possible that such regulations originate in the EU legislature and that people should be able to purchase the goods and the services separately.

    It's laughable that the EU needs "proof" that Microsoft are tying their products to certain goods. A brief perusal of the above sites will provide documentation that the practice is baked into Microsoft's business plan.

    Thomas writes, "The manufacturer wrote me, that they have an exclusive deal with MS only to ship their hardware with MS Windows 7. They have no chance to to refund it, otherwise they would have shipped a pc without MS Windows 7."

    This is probably against regulatory constraints on Microsoft in the US and general anti-tying regulation in the EU. The vendor should either confirm this in writing so that the regulatory ball can start rolling or admit that they are lying. One or the other.

  13. Do you have the First Sale Doctrine in your country? If you haven't accepted the MSFT EULA, you could sell the Windows sticker and disk image to someone who wants it.

  14. I was succesful in getting a refund for the Windows license supplied with my Acer notebook, see http://alexandervanloon.nl/english/?p=292 for details. The refund was € 70 for Windows Vista Business. The refund is a right given by the EULA, so the manufacturer is obliged to give a refund.

  15. AFAIK in Germany it is possible to hand back a ms licence.
    i heard about people who did this.

  16. Claus ChristensenSunday, 19 June, 2011

    In Denmark the EULA question has recently been tried at court. According to news reports, the ruling (which is only known to be relevant to XP and Vista, MS has since tweaked the EULA!) basically says, that the store has to refund the price of a Windows license, if the consumer does not want to use it; however the consumer has to have been "in good faith" - in other words, if you buy a computer, and only upon reading the EULA decides that you don't want to accept it, you are entitled to a refund; but if you knew in advance that you wouldn't need Windows, but bought a computer with Windows pre-installed anyway, you have not acted in good faith and are not entitled to a refund. There has actually been a case of a consumer being denied a refund by the court for this reason.

    Since most computers these days ship with Windows 7 and the cost of going to court is high, it seems unlikely that the EULA is any help in this case.

  17. In many cases pc's ship with all kinds of (demo) software, on top of Windows.

    Naturally the manufacturers are paid by the software-manufacturers to do this. Additionally, Microsoft offers OEM-licences of Windows for a cheap price.

    I suppose that offering the demo software on these systems allows the manufacturers to use the added income, to reduce the overall retail price.

    The question is: will offering a clean system (with of without Linux) in effect increase the retail price? And if so, how much will this price increase eat into the money that is saved on the Windows-licence?


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