An Israeli man has battled his way to receiving a refund from Dell after choosing not to use the copy of Vista that came bundled with his laptop. It’s the second such case, but the first that has gone to court.
Zvi Devir of Haifa, bought a Dell laptop with Vista pre-installed but wanted to run Linux instead. He decided to take advantage of a message every Vista user sees the firm time they run the system, but few take much notice of:
By using this software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine their return policy for a refund or credit.
According to ynetnews.com, Devir followed this advice but Dell tried to fob him off by saying it was down to the laptop’s distributors to sort things out. Devir didn’t accept this and took Dell to court asking for a $137 (US dollars) refund to cover the cost of the operating system.
Dell’s defense was that Devir wasn’t eligible for a refund as he’d knowingly bought a machine with Vista rather than one with Linux or no system at all. That may or may not be a legally sound point, though it was definitely weakened by the fact Dell only sells Windows laptops.
When Dell offered an out of court settlement, it appeared it was also making the case a point of principle: it offered $100, the price Dell pays Microsoft for each copy of Windows. More importantly it demanded a non-disclosure agreement. Devir refused both of these conditions and Dell eventually agreed to hand over the full $137 with no strings attached.
Earlier this year an American customer persuaded HP to hand over $200 after he also decided he didn’t want to use Vista on his machine.
With neither case getting as far as a court judgment, there’s yet to be an official ruling on where the law stands in this situation (either in the US or abroad). Given the relatively small costs involved, it may be that manufacturers are willing to refund particularly persistent customers rather than risk a court ruling establishing a legal principle and leaving them having to pay out to hundreds or thousands of people.