PC-Windows bundling, first hearing at TGI in Paris : UFC Que Choisir against Darty
Ironically, as the hearing for the first out of three assignements introduced by French consumer association UFC-Que Choisir against systematic sale of pre-installed Windows with Personal Computers was held in Court in Paris, we learned that manufacturer Asus was condemned in Caen, Normandy (case Hordoir vs. Asus, 30 April 2008) to reimburse the client for unwanted software licences. While the judgment in Paris is pending, this decision should encourage computer manufacturers to reimburse clients more willingly, otherwise they might be subjected to frequent assignement and condemnation, given the success obtained by the Reimbursement Guide published recently by the "Racketware" team.
Today, in Court in Paris (at Tribunal de Grande Instance), was held the first hearing in the series of trials that oppose consumer association UFC Que Choisir and companies accused of violating several articles of the French Consumer Code, in particular Article L.122-1 that prohibits bundled sales.
Complaint by UFC Que Choisir
Let us recall the facts : when consumers buy the computer of their choice, they are generally forced to simultaneouly acquire the license of pre-installed software, even though it would be easy for the professionals to dissociate both purchases, for a marginal cost , as recommended by the Globalisation Institute, a liberal reflection group, in a report for the European Commission . This dissociation would also dissolve the lack of publicity for the software prices and conditions of use. Moreover, it would induce an evolution of software licenses, considered to be unfair and to contain abusive terms .
Encouraged by the Director General of the DGCCRF at the time, Mr. Cerruti, at a tripartite meeting in November 2006 , this trial is intended to provide a jurisprudence related sales of computers and software. The recent response by Luc Chatel to a written question confirms this need: the Secretary of State said he will not do anything .
New victory by an individual: confirmed liberty to choose one's software.
Happy coincidence: on the eave of this hearing, an individual won a new trial in Caen, Normandy. He obtained a posteriori reimbursement of pre-installed software.
The judgement recalls the client's
One of the jurists in the Racketware team that edits the
Reimbursement Guide, comments :
This is the fourth victory in a proximity juridiction (Rennes, Puteaux, Libourne, Caen). This victory is the first of a long series of procedures  conducted along the lines of the http://racketiciel.info/ Reimbursement Guide  which meets great success .
What is the consumers' opinion?
Meanwhile, Vista is increasingly rejected. The consumer prefers keeping XP and manufacturers HP and DELL attempt to find way to revive this system to meet demand. As for Microsoft, she receives the timely payment for the Vista license anyway. Only the consumer is the looser : he must pay for software he is not using!
Does the consumer wish anything else than Microsoft products? With bundled sales, he is rarely entitled to speak. Yet EeePC, by the same manufacturer, ASUS, meets a tremendous success: the public chooses an innovative machine that runs a free operating system .
What Justice can achieve
The French executive power is schizophrenic. On the one hand,
Despite what vendors and manufacturers pretend, the solutions we suggest (identical pre-installation for all copies of a model, but selective activation upon client's request) have a minimal cost, they are simple and fast to set up . A clear court settlement on bundled sales would cut manufacturers' dilatory arguments.
Besides, bundled sales illustrates a real problem in France: the law exists and only needs to be enforced. A clear court settlement on bundled sales would re-delineate the spirit of the law where it has been continually eroded by the influence of manufacturers and vendors for their exclusive profit.
Live from Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance
Today's hearing shows that the result of this action mainly relies on the Court's decision. It should be noted that Darty's representents seem to exempt the vendor from its responsibilities regarding customers, just as today's State Secretary Luc Chatel eludates his responsibility . Associations AFUL and April celebrate the quality of the pleading by UFC-Que Choisir representents, which included several key arguments from the Racketware team.
Alain Coulais, one of the leaders of the Racketware workgroup, says:
About the undersigned organisations
The French speaking Linux and Libre Software Users' Association (AFUL), AFUL aims to promote libre software and the use of open standards. AFUL is a non-profit association that gathers users, professionals, companies and other associations based in more than a dozen French-speaking countries and regions (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec, French-speaking African countries, etc.).
Partner of many media, AFUL is present at many exhibitions, conferences and meetings. In particular, it has an active role against bundled sales (Workgroup against bundled sales, racketiciel.info petition, comparative list bons-vendeurs-ordinateurs.info of computer vendors), in favor of interoperability (member of AFNOR, participation to Interoperability and accessibility Referentials by DGME, formats-ouverts.org website, etc.), as well as on issues concerning Author Copyrights.
Since 1996, April, pioneer of free software in France, has been a major actor for the broadcasting of free software and open standards among the general public, professionals and institutions in the French-speaking community. It also acts as a watchdog on digital freedoms, warning the public about the dangers of private interests keeping an exclusive stranglehold on information and knowledge.
The association totals over 2100 members, users and producers of free software, among which more than eighty companies, around sixty associations and two townships.