This week, Microsoft settled class-action lawsuits in Arizona, Massachusetts, and North Dakota, marking the 11th, 12th, and 13th times the company has settled postantitrust cases in the United States. The company will pay as much as a combined $145 million to settle the three cases.
In the Arizona case, Microsoft's proposed settlement is worth $105 million in software vouchers; customers who purchased Windows or Microsoft Office products between 1996 and 2002 will receive vouchers worth $9 to $12 for each purchase. Some Arizona schools will receive unclaimed vouchers toward the purchase of computer products.
Massachusetts plaintiffs could receive software vouchers worth as much as $34 million, a figure lawyers say would be much higher if the state's protection laws included businesses and governments as well as consumers. Qualifying Massachusetts consumers who purchased Microsoft products between 1996 and 2002 are eligible for software vouchers that they can use to purchase computer software or hardware products.
In North Dakota, the court approved a November 2003 preliminary settlement; the $9 million settlement is the smallest of the lot, representative of that state's smaller population. So far only 500 consumers have come forward to claim vouchers but, now that the settlement is finalized, the state expects several schools to benefit as well.
Since Microsoft lost its federal antitrust case, the company has been hit with more than 100 class-action lawsuits around the country, although many cases were consolidated. Microsoft has won 18 of the cases, largely because of local laws that don't let consumers sue companies for indirectly sold products. The company has settled 13 cases so far, and five cases are pending in Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, and Wisconsin. Microsoft also faces a potentially damaging antitrust case in Europe, where the company was found guilty of illegally bundling Windows Media Player (WMP) with Windows and withholding information from competitors.