Microsoft will pay $5m (£2.8m) in cash and up to $177m in vouchers to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by Minnesota consumers who accused the company of abusing its Windows monopoly to overcharge for its software.
The Minnesota deal is the first state class action settlement in which Microsoft has agreed to pay cash in addition to providing vouchers. The company has settled 14 similar cases in states across the US.
The Minnesota settlement was approved by a county district court.
Microsoft has agreed to make vouchers available to customers who bought its software during a specific time period. The vouchers can be used to buy computer software or hardware.
In Minnesota, Microsoft will provide up to $174.5m in vouchers to those who bought operating system and select application software products between 18 May 1994 and 17 March 2003. The voucher amount per copy is $15 for Windows or MS-DOS, $23 for Excel, $23 for Office and $9 for Word, Works and Home Essentials.
In addition, Microsoft will provide $2.5m in cash and $2.5m in general purpose vouchers to the University of Minnesota's Institute for Technology. Microsoft will also give $2.5m in cash to the Minnesota Legal Aid society, according to a statement distributed by the lawyers who brokered the deal.
Over one million Minnesota consumers and businesses will be eligible to collect refunds on past purchases, the plaintiffs estimate. Half of any unclaimed settlement money and the full value of vouchers that were issued but never redeemed, will go to needy public schools in Minnesota in the form of vouchers, the plaintiffs said.
When the trial began in March, the Minnesota case was the first state class action to be tried in front of a jury. The trial ended when the settlement was announced in April. Details of the settlement were kept under wraps until the judge preliminarily had approved the deal.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service