Judge OKs $1.1 billion Microsoft deal

A California judge on Friday gave preliminary approval to a landmark settlement under which Microsoft will pay $1.1 billion to settle a class-action suit that claimed it overcharged consumers for Windows.

The ruling by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Paul Alvarado allows the settlement to proceed to the next step, during which consumers and corporations in the state will be notified that they may qualify for vouchers ranging in value from $5 to $29. The vouchers can be used to buy most hardware or software products from any manufacturer. Townsend and Townsend and Crew, the law firm that filed the suit, described Friday's ruling as "the largest recovery of a monopoly overcharge ever achieved in the United States and the largest recovery ever achieved under the antitrust laws of California."

Eugene Crew, a partner at the San Francisco-based law firm, said that the ruling means consumers will start to be notified. "It'll start in 60 days and continue for 60 days after that," Crew said. "These will be notices in newspapers and magazines and notices to those people whose e-mail or direct mail addresses we have. We've been getting those records from Microsoft and (computer makers)." Nobody can submit claims until two months from now, at which time Alvarado is expected to approve the exact wording of the public notification of the settlement. Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuit, filed in February 1999, claimed that Microsoft violated California antitrust laws by overcharging by as much as $40 for every copy of the Windows 95 and 98 operating systems. People seeking refunds will be able to go to MicrosoftCalSettlement.com--which was not online as of Friday afternoon--or call (800) 203-9995 to request a claim form. In addition, Townsend and Townsend and Crew has set up a settlement FAQ Web site.

News source: C|net

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