California class action settlement approved

California software buyers can start sending in claims to get a piece of the $1.1bn (£693m) settlement Microsoft agreed to in...

California software buyers can start sending in claims to get a piece of the $1.1bn (£693m) settlement Microsoft agreed to in January, after a judge signed off the deal on Friday (18 July).

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Paul Alvarado gave the settlement preliminary approval, allowing notices inviting claims to be sent out.

Lawyers representing groups of California consumers will advertise, send out e-mail and post, and set up a website so eligible software buyers can get a claim form and file claims.

The preliminary approval was delayed about a month because the parties could not agree on the notices that will appear in the media, in the mail and online. Those issues were resolved last week.

Under the settlement, individuals and businesses who bought Microsoft's operating system or productivity software for use in California between 18 February 1995 and 15 December 2001, can get vouchers worth between $5 (£3) and $29 (£18) depending on the product bought. Claims valued up to $100 (£63) or for up to five product licences can be made without any documentation.

The vouchers can be used to buy computer hardware or software from any supplier. Vouchers up to $650 (£410) in value may also be sold. Two-thirds of any unclaimed settlement vouchers will be donated to California schools serving children from the poorest families.

The California settlement is the largest of five class action cases Microsoft has settled so far. In each of the cases the plaintiffs allege Microsoft overcharged for its software. The supplier has not admitted guilt.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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