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RealTime IT News

Microsoft Notches Settlement with Another State

While Microsoft tries to reach a settlement with the European Union over anti-trust charges there, the software company continues making headway settling U.S. anti-trust claims.

Tennessee is the latest U.S. state to strike a deal with Microsoft to settle class action lawsuits, after 20 states filed suit on behalf of consumers. The charges included alleged overcharges for software.

In recent days and weeks, the software company also concluded deals with North Carolina and both North and South Dakota. While Microsoft has put much of its legal troubles behind it in the U.S., the company still has class-action lawsuits pending in Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconson.

The Tennessee settlement will make vouchers available that may be used to buy any manufacturer's desktop, laptop and tablet computers, any software available for sale to the general public and used with those computer products, and specified peripheral devices for use with computers, the company and state officials said.

The total amount of vouchers issued will depend on the number of class-action members who claim vouchers, and the maximum value of the vouchers that may be issued to class members will total $64 million, Microsoft and Tennessee said in a statement.

Microsoft's deal with Tennessee comes on the heels of a similar pact to settle charges with both North and South Dakota. Details of the Dakotas settlements were announced last week and will pay consumers up to $18.33 million for lawsuits that said Microsoft overcharged users for its software products.

Microsoft has been working with state regulators to resolve any outstanding legal issues from the federal government's landmark anti-trust settlement with the U.S. government in 2002. As part of the settlements, Microsoft said it is providing eligible buyers product vouchers, which can be used to purchase computer hardware or software products from vendors their of choice. Unclaimed vouchers will go towards hardware and software at schools.

In the last year, Microsoft has arrived at settlement terms with ten major class action lawsuits totaling more than $1.55 billion in damages.

Tennesseans will be getting up to $64 million in settlement money, and depending how many of the state's residents who were overcharged for Microsoft products come forward, remaining funds will go to schools in Tennessee.

The Tennessee and Dakota settlements with Microsoft follow a similar settlement deal with North Carolina in early November.

As part of Microsoft's legal settlement in North Carolina, consumers who, between Dec. 9, 1995, and Dec. 31, 2002, and while residing in North Carolina, indirectly purchased certain Microsoft operating system, productivity suite, spreadsheet or word processing software for use in North Carolina, and not for resale, will be eligible to apply for the vouchers.

While it is not entirely clear how many businesses and consumers will come forward to claim vouchers in Microsoft's settlements with various states, some are pushing for those entities to file claims.

In California, a law firm called Townsend and Townsend and Crew, issued a press release saying that state residents could call a toll free number or go to microsoftcalsettlement.com, saying that customers have to March 15, 2004 to file a claim.

"More than 14 million businesses and consumers in California can collect from this $1.1 billion settlement. Participants can collect vouchers to purchase new computer hardware -- desktop computers, laptops, printers, scanners, monitors, keyboards -- and software from any manufacturer, not just Microsoft," Townsend and Townsend and Crew said.

The group went onto say that "any individual or business that purchased eligible Microsoft applications software, operating systems or computers with pre-installed Microsoft programs between Feb. 18, 1995 and Dec. 15, 2001 for use in California may file a claim. Operating systems include MS-DOS or Windows. The eligible applications software includes Microsoft Office, Word, Excel, Works Suite and Home Essentials 97 or 98. Upgrades should also be considered when filing a claim. For any computer running Windows or MS-DOS, the claimant is entitled to $16; for each copy of Office software, $29; Excel, $26; Word, Home Essentials or Works Suite, $5."