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Judge Slaps Down Cheeky Lindows Scheme

Judge Slaps Down Cheeky Lindows Scheme

The judge supervising Microsoft's $1.1 billion California settlement of those class-action allegations that it overcharged for Windows has pulled the plug on Lindows' scheme to route claims through the MSfreePC.com Web site it set up for the purpose to basically skim off some of the refund money.

The site presumed to offer consumers an "instant settlement," said they didn't need receipts and dangled the offer of a free PC to the first 10,000 who bought $100 worth of its products.

Microsoft complained about the Lindows site to California Superior Court Judge Paul Alvarado claiming, among other things, that the Lindows site encourage people to submit "fraudulent claims." Alvarado, in turn, ruled that the official settlement Web site, www.microsoftcalsettlement.com, is the only Web site authorized to process claims, that MSfreePC.com wasn't authorized and that the court-appointed claims administrator would reject any claims processed by the Lindows site.

According to Microsoft, the judge quietly made his decision on December 22, but Lindows only owned up to it on Monday. Lindows said it disagreed with the ruling and claimed the official claims process is "complex," "arduous," "paper-heavy" and takes months. Claims can't be submitted electronically; the official site only lets people print the "lengthy" claims form.

Lindows CEO Michael Robertson figures the official claims process is a way for Microsoft to weasel out of paying the whole $1.1 billion settlement, since half of any unclaimed money goes back to Microsoft.

According to Robertson, "Judges and attorneys should be insistent that the 25 million consumers in California have access to an online claims process. Microsoft's claim that digital signatures are valid when used to sell their software but not when it costs them money is pure hypocrisy. Their true intentions are not to remedy their abusive pricing policies but simply to escape financial redress to Californians."

Of course, no court has found Microsoft guilty of abusive pricing. The company's out-of-court settlements of the California suit and a bunch of others like it have sidestepped any such decision.

Lindows has had its rogue site up since mid-September and says it handled about a million dollars in potential claims from 15,000 consumers. Lindows says they can keep the free operating system and copy of StarOffice they got for their trouble.

Microsoft says the claims administrator will write the folks who tried to go through the Lindows site and provide them with an official claims form.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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