Windows Tax Refund

The "Windows Tax" has artificially increased hardware prices for users of GNU/Linux by a mandatory payment to Microsoft even though no Microsoft software is being used on these machines. The reason: almost any computer and laptop is bundled with a Microsoft Windows licence. Details on how you can prevent to pay money for non-free software licenses are not easy to find, there is no central repository to allow people gather and share their information with the process. Changing that is the purpose of this page.

Short guide

First of all. Please in all your e-mails and in all your phone calls be polite, calm but persistent. Understand that you might be the first one with this request and that this process takes longer and most employees in the companies might not have a clue what you are talking about.

It is also likely that you will not get a refund, nevertheless you help us to improve the situation in the long run. (Thanks to all the people who wrote down their experiences with Windows Tax Refund, especially Serge Wroclawski, Graeme Cobbett, and Werner Heuser).

Buy hardware with Free Software pre-installed or without non-free software

The best treatment is prevention. So buy your hardware from vendors who offer computers with Free Software or which sell it without non-free Software.

Some vendors offer discount on machines with only GNU/Linux pre-installed. Call the vendors before you buy and explain them that you want to have a machine without the Windows license. Especially with "business" machines it should be possible to get what you want if you explain the situation. (Of course it is not sure if this is just a general discount, or if they really add this as "unsold Microsoft license" on their accounts.). Only if you really have no chance to get a computer without a non-free software license you should continue.

Find out which license you are dealing with

There are a lot of different Microsoft licenses out there. Find out what Microsoft license is installed on your computer (add information where to find your license information). Read the details about the Microsoft license you want to get refunded on Microsoft's software license terms page.

Do not start Microsoft Windows

If you've booted into Windows once and hit the Accept button at the end of the Microsoft Windows licence (hereinafter - EULA), you're disqualified.

Reject your software license

In the old days, there was a “reject” option in the EULA, so if you were really thorough, you could photograph yourself in the process of saying “no”. But now, you only get an option to “Accept”.

However there is a clause in the EULA which allows you to reject the license by refusing to use the software and returning it to retailer for refund or credit.

EULA clause:

By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine its return policy. You must comply with that policy, which might limit your rights or require you to return the entire system on which the software is installed.

Rejection of the EULA must be based on your disagreement with some of its clauses. After you have read your EULA license there should be many parts which you will oppose. We have also put some parts together to which we would not agree as well.

Here you can find example of the wording, which you can use in the letter to the retailer:

I do not agree to the terms of the Microsoft Windows End User License Agreement (EULA) nor ADD OTHER NON-FREE LICENSES. I have not used any of the pre-installed software, I have not opened or broken the seal on any software packet. I have deleted all preloaded or embedded software from my computer.

Please inform me a) how I may promptly return the disks and other software items to you? b) How you will refund the cost of the software? I note that YOUR LICENSE retails at INSERT COSTS FOR DIFFERENT SOFTWARE, which means a total refund of XY is due.

Do not wait too long some vendors have policies to only accept this in the first week.

Argue the case

In order to receive your refund often you will need to be ready for some challenges. Be prepared to politely and calmly defend your position

Here you can find the most common arguments of the opposite side and the way to deal with them [1]:

You can't return the operating system because the computer can't work without it.
  • Explain that you run GNU/Linux (or other operating system you've replaced Windows with).

You didn't pay anything for Windows.
  • Since the price of Windows was included in the price of the computer, they may try to argue that you didn't pay anything for it. This one is easy to debunk. Windows costs money - everyone knows that. Once you establish that Windows does indeed cost money (and you can't get it for free) then the only remaining issue is how much you paid. Since Microsoft contracts out with hardware vendors, there's no actual way to know how much Windows costs a given retailer. As the consequence the sum of the refund will be different each time.

You bought the bundle.
  • They may tell your purchase was a bundle, that Windows came on the computer as a packaged set and you can't return one without the other. Earlier we have mentioned EULA clause, which deals with it, cite it. It says that you may choose to not accept the license and return it to the vendor. (On the phone have the passage in front of you.) No matter what they say regarding a bundle, the legal wording of the license is clear. If the customer service representative tries to cut the conversation short saying it's a bundle, stay polite, but explain that the license is quite clear and that you're just going by the legal wording and exercising your right to return the operating system.
  • Such bundling can be considered as unfair commercial practice, expressively prohibited by the law, according to Art.29 of I Annex of European Directive 2005/29/CE

  • In 2010 French Courts confirmed that provisions of the European Directive 2005/29/CE on unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices can be used against bundle argument. It means, that the same legal arguments can be applied all over European Union.

How about a coupon?
  • Say no. It is easier for them.

You need to return the CD.
  • That's fine. But sometimes you do not have a CD and they ask you nevertheless to send it :)

[1] Most of the answers are taken from Serge Wroclawski's article "How to get a MS-Windows tax refund"

Report

Please report back to us what came out. Best is to add the information to the wiki or to send your report to us. It is also a good idea to forward your experiences to your local consumer protection organisation. The more they hear about it, the more likely is an action from their site.

If you had success and you want others to also have success in future, please consider donating to FSFE so we can continue to help Free Software users, or donate to another Free Software initiative. If you want to place a sticker from FSFE or another Free Software initiative, here are some tips on how to remove the Windows sticker.

Information for specific countries

Below, there is a list of countries (in alphabetical order) from which we either received interesting news or reports about people trying to get reimbursement. If you want to add a report, please provide date, kind of Microsoft license, company you bought it from and other interesting information. You can also attach your correspondence to your report.

Other resources