Monopoly: Microsoft to pay Mississippi $100 million

The current European Union moves against Microsoft and Internet Explorer are, of course, nothing new. After an American federal judge ruled in 2000 that Microsoft had illegally abused its monopoly by including the web browser as part of Windows, twenty-one states filed class-action lawsuits against the company on behalf of citizens, businesses, and government entities.

Reuters is reporting that the last of those lawsuits--the one with Mississippi--has just been settled. Approved by Hinds County Judge Denise Owens, the settlement will entail Microsoft's paying $40 million to the state within forty days and $60 million to individuals, schools, businesses, and local governments.

Mississippi Attorney General's spokesperson Jan Schaefer said, "[Microsoft] were over-charging customers and creating a monopoly. Anyone who made a purchase [in Mississippi] from January 1, 1996, to today [June 11, 2009] is eligible for a share of the money."

CNet reports that this "share of the money" will come in the form of vouchers worth $5 or $12, depending on what Microsoft products people had bought, for use in a future purchase. CNet's Ina Fried writes that "[p]roducts eligible for the $12 vouchers include three older Windows versions--Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows ME. Among those that qualify for the $5 vouchers are Office (or components such as Word and Excel), MS-DOS, Windows 1.xx-3.xx Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT Workstation, Windows 2000 and Windows XP."

It has been argued that such voucher settlements actually benefit Microsoft in that they lead to new sales. However, in this case unclaimed vouchers will be tallied up and passed on as cash to the state (up to $8 million).

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood concluded that "[t]he money that will be going into the state coffers will really help in this economically challenged time."

The Mississippi figure was the largest of all of the twenty-one settlement amounts, and it is certain that these older American lawsuits against Microsoft are being examined by the EU in its current actions against the company.

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