Brown offers users chance to fight software rip-offs


Brown offers users chance to fight software rip-offs

Chancellor Gordon Brown's pre-Budget report published today laid out plans to tackle anti-competitiveness, a move that could boost IT users in licensing disputes with software firms.

The Government will give legislative weight to the new right for consumer associations to bring what it describes as "super-complaints" to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

In the report the Chancellor said the OFT would be given a clear role to keep markets under review and the power to refer markets to the Competition Commission when they appeared not to be working well.

Roger Marshall, IT director of the Corporation of London, welcomed Brown's move. Having a more interventionist OFT could help users resolve software-licensing issues, he told

"When the Elite Group [the IT directors' organisation within the British Computer Society] was discussing strategy to deal with Microsoft's licence changes earlier this year, we were told that we could go to the OFT. However, a complaint needed large volumes of specific evidence, which would have been hard to compile and, inevitably, open to legal challenge.

"Allowing the OFT to be more proactive could help. It would be getting the UK in line with best practice globally."

Graham Fisher, senior analyst at Bloor Research, agreed that the Chancellor's proposals could be applied to software companies who may be acting in an anti-competitive manner. But he warned: "It opens the doors for any sort of complaint."

"There will always be dissatisfied customers, but where there is a genuine case, this is an excellent opportunity to redress the balance," he added.

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