The Superior Court of California has ordered Lindows.com to take down its MSfreePC.com Web site, which the company set up to help California consumers more easily recoup their class-action antitrust settlement vouchers from Microsoft. Judge Paul H. Alvarado ruled that the state will no longer accept claims submitted through the site and that consumers who want to issue claims against Microsoft will have to fill out the usual paperwork instead.
As you might recall, Microsoft settled its class-action antitrust lawsuit with California in July 2003, agreeing to provide $1.1 billion in computer hardware and software vouchers to consumers in that state. Under the settlement terms, Microsoft must pay half the unclaimed money to the state's poorest schools but can keep the other half. Lindows.com was hoping to ensure that Microsoft paid out the maximum amount possible, so the company set up the MSfreePC.com Web site to streamline the process.
In November 2003, Microsoft asked California courts to reject any claims filed through the site, arguing that the site violated the terms of Microsoft's California settlement. Lindows.com argued that Microsoft wanted the claims process to be as complicated as possible, ensuring that the company would pay the smallest possible fine. "This is more of a setback for consumers than anyone, and it's a shame that large class-action settlements remain paper-based," Lindows.com CEO Michael Robertson said. "Microsoft trumpeted--to anyone who would listen--about how much they were paying in this case, and it's clear that these claims were disingenuous, since they're now making such obvious ploys to pay as little as possible."
In any event, California consumers who want to take advantage of the settlement have until March 2004 to file a claim. For more information about filing a claim, visit the Microsoft-California Class Action Settlement Web site, which California and Microsoft set up.