Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Antitrust News: Microsoft puts antitrust behind it

Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP issued the following press release:

--Tomorrow millions of California consumers and businesses will begin receiving forms allowing them to claim up to $1.1 billion in benefits from the settlement of an antitrust class action lawsuit against Microsoft Corporation. Over 10 million forms will be mailed during the next 60 days. Claim forms may also be obtained immediately online at www.microsoftcalsettlement.com or by calling 1-800-203-9995.

California consumers and businesses will now have an opportunity to recover a substantial portion of the prices they paid for all of their Microsoft operating system, spreadsheet and word processing software purchased during a seven year period ending in December 2001. Consumers can recover the first $100 of their benefits just by listing their eligible Microsoft product purchases on a claim form and signing their names. Even larger recoveries will be obtained by those who provide documentation of more than five purchases of eligible Microsoft products.

The settlement is expected to provide substantial relief to the thousands of California businesses whose technology budgets have been cut drastically in recent years, according to Eugene Crew and Richard Grossman, co-lead attorneys for the consumer class. Grossman observed, "Medium and large businesses will recover tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits. Even the smallest businesses are likely to recover thousands of dollars." He added, "A computer systems manager would be derelict in his duties if he passed up this opportunity to beef up his technology budget. The claims process is pretty simple so we expect business owners and executives to quickly file their claims and pass along the news of this fabulous opportunity to their colleagues."

After years of antitrust litigation directed at Microsoft, this is the first time that Californians will be able to recover the overcharges that Microsoft allegedly imposed upon its customers as a result of its monopoly in key software markets. While prior antitrust claims against Microsoft focused only upon its monopoly in desktop operating system software, the California class action settlement also covers alleged overcharges in word processing, spreadsheet and office productivity suite software.
It would be interesting to know what the total cost of Microsoft's decision not to publicly target the antitrust laws themselves as unfair and unjust when it first found itself under antitrust attack. Microsoft created and owns its "word processing, spreadsheet and office productivity suite software." It can charge any price its wants to consumers, or choose not to sell at all. Yet not once did Microsoft make this key point to the public. Not once did Microsoft itself challenge the premise of antitrust.

I encourage our California supporters to get their forms and get thier money from Microsoft. Why shouldn't they? Microsoft itself has sanctioned this $1.1 billion payout.

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