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FR: National Assembly discusses amendments on decoupling hardware and software sales

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Amendments to France's draft law on 'reinforcing consumers' rights, protection and information' have been proposed with the purpose of putting an end to bundled hardware/software sales, the French advocacy organisation for free software and open standards APRIL announced on 27 September 2011.

Bundled hardware/software sales, APRIL explained, consists of an anti-competitive commercial practice that prevents consumers from purchasing a computer without having to pay for pre-installed software. The public discussions on the draft law at the National Assembly (the lower house of Parliament) started on Wednesday 28 September 2011.

Amendment 308 proposed by the Member of Parliament (MP) Lionel Tardy states: "the selling of a computer, its operating system and its application software have to be dissociated. A decree defines the implementation terms of the present article." This amendment's formulation is relatively close to that proposed by MP Frédérique Massat in July 2011 and proposed again in view of the September political debate (amendment 181). This time however the amendment has been modified to now include "application software" among the elements whose selling have to be dissociated. According to APRIL, such precision could prove of use in future, in case of a bypassing of the new law.

APRIL believes that such an approach would enable consumers to have the opportunity to choose the software (either open source or proprietary) "which is what the majority wishes for", the advocacy organisation stresses. However APRIL says that this does not entail prohibiting selling packages: "this amendment does not lay down an obligation of selling 'bare' computers (i.e. without an operating system)"; it is rather aimed at "making sure that consumers who do not wish to have particular software will not be compelled to purchase it. Currently, consumers do not have such an option and they are generally deprived of ways to act: this amendment constitutes a clarification of the law and emphasises that this type of unfair commercial practices is prohibited."

APRIL further explains that as the explanatory memoranda to both amendments 308 and 181 indicate, the Court of Appeal of Versailles stated on 5 May 2011 that the forced sale of software with computers modifies the consumers' behaviour and goes against professional diligence (as the general public is denied machines without software whereas the latter are to customers who are professionals [with strong IT requirements]). APRIL thus concludes that it is an unfair commercial practice prohibited by EU Directive "Directive 2005/29/EC - Unfair commercial practices - National legislation prohibiting combined offers to consumers."

APRIL hopes that the MPs who opposed this specific amendment in July 2011 will support it this time. The organisation's press release also mentions other amendments - which it sees as insufficient - regarding the information available to consumers on the terms and amount of reimbursement following a purchase.

Note: This is a remixed version of the original article by APRIL which is distributed under the terms of the Licence Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 France (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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