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February 9, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

By Rachel Chalmers

Preparations for Windows Refund Day, Monday February 15, are kicking into high gear. The Refund movement began in mid-January when the tale of Geoffrey Bennett, an Australian Linux user who sought a refund from Toshiba for the unused and unwanted Windows software pre-installed on his laptop, hit high-volume hacker site Slashdot. Bennett succeeded in getting his check by refusing to accept the terms of Microsoft’s own End Users License Agreement (EULA) (CI No 3,580). Inspired by his success, users of non- Microsoft operating systems from all over the US, Europe, New Zealand and Japan plan a coordinated approach to the software giant with unopened Windows CDs in hand, hoping to get their money back. Microsoft officials have derided the movement as a tempest in a teapot and have questioned Bennett’s motives in seeking a refund. They said that in any case, the EULA tells customers to approach their OEMs for refunds, and not Microsoft (CI No 3,581). But organizers of the Refund movement despair of getting a straight answer out of the OEMs. A straw poll conducted for the Refund’s rapidly-established newsletter found six flacks from Toshiba, two from Dell, two from Gateway and one each from IBM, Packard-Bell, Sony, NEC, Micron, Unicent, Umax, Quantex and CompUSA, all united in the conviction that consumers who refused to accept the EULA were not entitled to a refund. Gateway told the newsletter that turning on the PC to erase the copy of Windows signified automatic consent to the EULA, while Toshiba has reportedly started shipping laptops with a sticker saying that customers accept the EULA when they take the computer out of its plastic bag. Little wonder that organizers decided to take their grievance to the source.

Quality not the issue

Not that windows Refund Day is explicitly anti-Microsoft. The message is not ‘Windows sucks, I want my money back,’ warns the Bay Area Refund web page at, the message is ‘I choose not to accept this license, and am therefore exercising my right to return the product for a refund.’ The quality or lack of quality of Microsoft products is not the issue. Everyone has different considerations that they take into account when they consider what OS they would like, said Refund organizer Don Marti, an internet consultant with SF web company Electric Lichen LLC. We’re not about that. If we tried to take a side in that never-ending battle we’d never get anywhere. Instead, Marti urges people to focus on extracting refunds and enforcing their right not to accept the EULA. There’s a pretty simple goal we’re out to achieve, he said. the refund clause is printed right there in black and white. As for the OEM’s evasive maneuvers, Marti is mostly amused. I am not a lawyer and I’m not a Toshiba customer, he stressed, but if a Linux-loving lawyer got ahold of a Toshiba laptop, well, that would be interesting. Marti is coordinating the Bay Area Refund Movement, targeted at the Microsoft campus in Foster City. Other movements will descend on other Microsoft complexes around the world. Organizers are busy now arranging car pools and convoys. Will the software giant be ready? Microsoft spokesperson, Adam Sohn who handled spin for the company when the story first broke, is in Washington, presumably dealing with Microsoft’s other big PR problem. But Sohn is due back in Redmond on – you guessed it – Monday, February 15.

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