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EU court to decide on PC and software bundling

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The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is expected to rule within weeks on the practice of forced sale of licences for operating systems and other software bundled with computing devices. On 25 June, France’s Court of cassation referred to the CJEU a complaint of a French citizen who wanted to purchase a PC without any pre-installed operating system.

According to April, France’s free software advocacy group, the Court of Cassation wants the CJEU to decide applicability of EU rules on unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices. The court seeks to determine what are unfair commercial practices, and what are misleading commercial practices. The Court of Cassation is asking the CJEU if bundling is unfair, and if it is unfair not to leave the customer much choice other than accepting the bundling or cancelling the sale. The court is also asking if it is unfair when consumers can not buy a computer without bundled software.

In a prepared statement, April says it is looking forward to the CJEU decision, which the organisation hopes will confirm the unfairness the bundling of software licences with computing devices.

End user licence

Politicians, consumer organisations and advocates of free and open source software have long been arguing that it should be easier to purchase PCs without an operating system. In 2007, the Globalisation Institute, a European free market think-tank, argued that a the lack of competition “is not in the public interest. It limits the market and has slowed technical development to the prejudice of consumers."

The same year both an Italian court and a French court ordered computer manufacturers to refund customers who did not want the preloaded operating system. A year later, a French judge ordered a computer chain store to list the price of operating systems pre-installed on computing devices on sale. The complaint had been filed in 2006 by a French consumer rights organisation. In 2008, open source enthusiast in the Czech Republic failed to get reimbursed, after refusing to sign the PC manufacturer’s non-disclosure agreement. Earlier that year, the same manufacturer reimbursed a computer science student at the University of Łódź (Poland).

A wiki on the bundling of software licences and computing devices, maintained by the Free Software Foundation Europe, links to reports from 12 EU member states where citizens tried to get refunds.

 

More information:

April statement (in French)
April statement (in French)