French consumer association launches a targeted assault on computer software bundling

05 March 2007

Jeanne Méhaud

In mid December, a leading French consumer body brought a judicial action against Hewlett-Packard, Darty and Auchan to challenge the fact that most PCs are sold with an operating system pre-installed without consumers being given the option to refuse the software and receive a price reduction based on the unpaid licence fee.

The lawsuit, by UFC-Que Choisir, is based on a claim of wrongful tying and is deliberately directed at three different participants in the computer manufacturing and distribution market - a computer manufacturer, a supermarket and a store specialising in the sale of IT equipment.

UFC-Que Choisir claims damages up to €30,000, and is seeking to obtain a judicial precedent that the sellers cease selling PCs with preinstalled software without offering the purchaser the opportunity to decline the software and get a deduction of the corresponding licence fee. Given the widespread nature of this practice, this is likely to be an important case with far-reaching implications if the lawsuit is successful.