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The situation in France concerning the refund of Windows and other pre-installed softwares has seen an increase of triumphant victories for consumers in trials (2006-2011). Thanks to the expertise of AFUL (Association Francophone des Utilisateurs de Logiciels Libres) and the support of consumers organizations such as UFC-Que Choisir, we are able to provide experiences and howtos from the French perspective. These experiences provide us reliable information about Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) behaviors and retailers policies.
The first thing to do is to refuse the CLUF (Contrat de Licence de l'Utilisateur Final: End User License Agreement) – once you first start your computer. The CLUF is a contract between you and Microsoft, that says you agree on the Terms and conditions of Microsoft Windows. By refusing this contract, you refuse to use Microsoft Windows. You should also take a photograph of the screen as an evidence you refuse the CLUF. This is the first important step towards Windows and other pre-installed softwares refunds.
The CLUF can vary from an OEM to another. La Fnac did a (very) non-exhaustive list of the different OEM's CLUF.
Once you have done that, you can do whatever you want with your computer. Make sure that you do not open the envelope containing softwares CD-Rom. Everything can be an evidence in such cases. So we advise to take photographs of your refusal to accept the CLUF. But you should also keep a record of everything you do: copy the letters or emails you have with the OEM (from you or from them), copy the CLUF, etc.
Ask your computer manufacturer
Based upon the different experiences we have, it is strongly advised to contact the OEM within a couple of days. You should send your refund by registered mail. You can do that simply by using La Poste Web service. If you do not have any address to contact your OEM, most of them are available on AFUL wiki. The different things you should write into your Refund Request letter are summed up in this template letter.
The OEM answer
Usually, the OEM tries to discourage you from the refund procedure. It will answer your arguments with fallacious answers, in contradiction with the contract (which specifies a refund procedure is possible if you do not agree with the CLUF) and also in total contradiction with the law which allows people to choose not to buy the software that are given with the computer.
Here is a list of some arguments and counter-arguments at your disposal when leading discussions with the OEM.
“Your computer does not work with another operating system”
“When you use another operating system that the one provided with the computer, you shall loose the manufacturer's guarantee on the material.”
“The software are a gift.” Which is wrong (the CLUF specifies there is a refund possible, so obviously you paid the softwares, it is not a gift) and in contradiction with the law (a gift cannot exceed a certain amount of money.)
“It is not our duty to proceed with the refund.” Which is not correct according to the CLUF. Moreover, it is the OEM that has installed the softwares.
In any case, you did not signed any contract until the CLUF appeared to you and you were not aware of any restriction of your action on the computer pre-installed softwares, which means you can not be reproached for something apart from what the CLUF says; and the CLUF deals with refund procedure.
Finally, laws in defense of consumers forbid linked-selling and the consumer has the right to choose whether he wants to buy the softwares or not. In case he doesn't want, he shall be refund the amount that corresponds the real price of the license. Any amount that is far below the real license price is considered “abusive” by the jurisprudence.
There are some OEMs however that have a correct behavior toward their consumers. Fujitsu-Siemens proceeds with the refund under the conditions that you give the certification stickers back and commit yourself not to use any copy of the sofwares.
Asus now also proceeds with the refund, without requiring you give back the material to check.
The procedure concerning Acer is described in The Acer procedure for refund. Unfortunately it appears that the refund is not very high (€ 40, for "Home premium" edition.)
Now if your discussion with the OEM ended in pure refusal and denial of the law, you should need some help. There are three kinds of persons who can be of assistance to try a conciliation and to prepare your case in court.
You should subscribe to a consumer association. One of the most active in France being UFC-Que choisir, who has already assisted many people against OEM reluctant to Windows Refund. Bring all the documents (letters, emails, a proof you refused the CLUF, etc.) and solicit their support in your opposition against the OEM refusal. Remind that UFC is already very involved in Windows Refund cases on the national level.
Every Tribunal d'instance http://www.justice.gouv.fr/recherche-juridictions/consult.php can provide you with a free conciliation process. Explain your situation to the Justice conciliator in charge of your case, he should contact the OEM again. The Justice conciliator can be a witness in case you go to trial (he can testify on the OEM bad behavior, etc.)
Don't be afraid of going to trial
What does the Law say?
How to begin a suit case?
Dell condamné à verser 388 euros pour vente liée sur deux ordinateurs portables (jugement, pdf)
The Administration in charge of the case is the DGCCRF (fraud repression direction). Unfortunately, this administration does not handle private contentious but only company-to-company issues. However, this administration is of importance because it depends on the Secrétaire d'État à la Consommation. Former minister Luc Chatel has shown various and contradictory positions about Windows refunds. However, Nathalie Kosciosko Morizet, French Secrétaire d'État au numérique still has to prove her interest in the case. There is already Plan France numérique 2012 which specifies that retailer must details prices' information and ease the refund procedure.
Prices details in shops
Unfortunately, since a new judgement Darty is no longer expected to display prices details (including the proportion of software inside the global price) when selling a computer.
Guide du remboursement 2.0, from AFUL Working Group Racketiciel.info: http://www.racketiciel.info/guide/index
Global network against “Racketware:” http://www.racketware.info/
Jlerhun details his own experience of Windows Refund in 2004: http://jlerhun.free.fr/detaxe/index.html