Patricia Pearl - Small Claims Procedure - A Practical Guide


An excellent guide for the layperson in how to use the County Court - a must if you are intending to start a claim.

£19.99 + £1.50 (P&P)

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  1. #1
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    Default Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Hi,

    I just purchased a new laptop and didn't want a Microsoft Operating System (OS) installed on it. I asked in lots of places if they sold computers with either Linux installed or no OS and every store (online and high street) I asked said no, it has to come with Microsoft. They could not even remove it for me.

    Now, Microsoft is not free (obviously ), so I have therefore been forced to pay for it even though I did not ask for it or want it. My laptop came with Windows Vista Home Premium installed, which I'm guessing they would have charged me around 50 for, as they do not pay the RRP, but the OEM price.

    So I've been forced to pay something in the region of 50 to Microsoft for a piece of their software that I won't be using and didn't want. This is not to mention Microsoft Works and other bundled software on the machine. This is what's referred to as the "Microsoft Tax" and makes me (and others) angry!

    The Microsoft EULA (End User License Agreement), which I read when the machine first started up, contains the following:

    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 their return policy for a refund or credit.

    I've done some research on the internet and it seems that Acer (along with all other manufacturers) are not that happy to honour this term. Acer in particular apparently will charge me around 53 (courier fees) for the machine to be sent into their "repair" centre to see that I've removed Windows or remove it themselves. So in effect it seems likely that I'll actually get charged more than the refund amount to get my refund!?

    Surely this behaviour is questionable (if not illegal) under competition laws and probably consumer protection laws?

    I'm now uncertain whether to pursue getting my refund at all and just accept the fact that Microsoft get money off me even though I don't use their software

    Is anyone else in the same situation? Does anyone have any suggestions or advice?

    If I do go ahead, there's a possibility I may need to take legal action, which I would be nervous about and not know where to start. So I'd also like to know if this forum is the right place for advice should I decide to go ahead?

    Thanks,
    Andy.


  2. #2
    Basic Account Holder human.error Novitiate human.error Novitiate

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Computer Supplies and PC Components from Novatech will sell you a laptop *without* an operating system, just click on 'customise' and then 'no operating system'. Likewise, if you purchase from Dell.co.uk and inform them at the time of purchase that you do not wish to use the Microsoft software\os etc then they will ask you to return the disks\licenses to them still sealed and they will reimburse you an interesting 7 or so, yes you did read that correctly, I did put 7 it's actually something like 5 plus vat, insurance and postage that they're charged per installation.

    As for proving that the OS isn't installed, there should be no reason to send it away. Just ask one of their 'tech' people to connect via vpn and then they'll be able to 'see' that you're not using the installed OS wouldn't they? We live in a technological age, there should be no reason to be sending laptops here and there to prove you don't want a particular OS, that's just ridiculous surely they must be able to identify the system via some means other than physically seeing it.

    HTH


  3. #3
    Basic Account Holder andylondonuk Novitiate

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Hi human.error, thanks for the comments, unfortunately as I've already purchased, it's too late for the link you suggested .. but I got a very good deal with the one I got from Acer anyway

    I called Dell before buying one as I was deciding between the Dell and the Acer. Dell categorically said "they could not provide it without an OS and DO NOT do refunds for Windows"! So that's why I didn't go for that one, they lost a customer!

    I agree, there should be no reason to send it away, like you say we live in a technological age LOL. Besides they're technical support, be technical

    But if Acer will only refund around 7 too (I really can't believe Dell pay so little), then to be honest .. is it worth it!? I guess it depends on whether I want to do it on principle.

    I'm still going to contact Acer to see what they say, but you can't contact them until you register your machine and I forgot to do that over the weekend

    Do you agree that the principle of being "forced" an OS is wrong?


  4. #4
    Basic Account Holder human.error Novitiate human.error Novitiate

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by andylondonuk View Post
    Hi human.error, thanks for the comments, unfortunately as I've already purchased, it's too late for the link you suggested .. but I got a very good deal with the one I got from Acer anyway
    Well that's good news then, at least you're happy with your purchase. Whilst not wishing to upset you however, you did purchase the 'extended warrantyicon' didn't you? Cheap Laptops, Hard Drives, LCD Monitors, TVs, Televisions, Hard Drive and more at Ebuyer.com If not, you can purchase it aftermarket, I think the limit is something like 180 days after purchase it can be applied to your laptop. But of course don't quote me entirely on that, as it maybe upto a year, I just can't remember that clearly, but I suspect it's around 180 days. If not, I suggest purchasing it.

    I called Dell before buying one as I was deciding between the Dell and the Acer. Dell categorically said "they could not provide it without an OS and DO NOT do refunds for Windows"! So that's why I didn't go for that one, they lost a customer!
    Well that's understandable.

    I agree, there should be no reason to send it away, like you say we live in a technological age LOL. Besides they're technical support, be technical
    Exactly, I mean with tools like teamviewer available for windows boxes and equivalents such as: Ammyy admin is a free TeamViewer alternative for remote support or: TeamViewer alternatives for Linux - AlternativeTo.net there's no reason to have to send the machine back when they can undertake the same tests as if they were sat at the machine, all be it remotely from their office.

    But if Acer will only refund around 7 too (I really can't believe Dell pay so little), then to be honest .. is it worth it!? I guess it depends on whether I want to do it on principle.
    Well they did say they were a 'volume supplier' and as such they were able to bulk purchase their copies of windows and then they said something about it not being fair to refund me 'retail' when they were only purchasing them on a 'volume license'. I wasn't going to complain, and had an old copy of XP anyway so it was no loss.

    I'm still going to contact Acer to see what they say, but you can't contact them until you register your machine and I forgot to do that over the weekend
    I take it you've had time now, so you've approached them and they've said?.... probably 'send the machine back to us and we'll confirm you didn't install windows'. Fwiw there is some Acer specific information on google and a few successes, I've not got time to go through them all but they are here: Google

    Do you agree that the principle of being "forced" an OS is wrong?
    I do, what's more if you read through the google links you'll see we're not alone in this choice either. Heck, even Microsoft include it in their eula, if they didn't want you to make use of it, then they wouldn't include it would they.

    Good luck.


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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Well that's good news then, at least you're happy with your purchase. Whilst not wishing to upset you however, you did purchase the 'extended warrantyicon' didn't you? Cheap Laptops, Hard Drives, LCD Monitors, TVs, Televisions, Hard Drive and more at Ebuyer.com If not, you can purchase it aftermarket, I think the limit is something like 180 days after purchase it can be applied to your laptop. But of course don't quote me entirely on that, as it maybe upto a year, I just can't remember that clearly, but I suspect it's around 180 days. If not, I suggest purchasing it.
    May I ask why you recommend this? I've personally never purchased any extended warrantiesicon before, as I've always believed them to be a bit of a waste of money?

    I take it you've had time now, so you've approached them and they've said?.... probably 'send the machine back to us and we'll confirm you didn't install windows'. Fwiw there is some Acer specific information on google and a few successes, I've not got time to go through them all but they are here: Google
    I sent them an email requesting information on how to obtain the refund, so will see what they say ..

    I read through that success story and noticed they offered around 40 for XP Professional, so not sure what they'll offer for Vista Home Premium. Maybe it could be worth it

    I'm not sure what I'll do if they insist on returning it at my expense. aside from the arguments above for being able to do it remotely, why should I have to pay for them to comply with the agreement they included on their product?

    Also mentioned on the forum thread (I've installed Linux, now give me my Windows refund - FedoraForum.org), is that it may also be a good idea to complain to the European Competition Commission, it can't hurt, so I will also be doing that. I just used the online chat facility on the europa website (European Commission - Europe Direct - Web Assistance), they where very helpful and gave me the direct link to the complaint form .. Europa - European Commission - Competition - Consumer Liaison Office

    I'll keep you posted .... :-|


  6. #6
    Basic Account Holder human.error Novitiate human.error Novitiate

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by andylondonuk View Post
    May I ask why you recommend this? I've personally never purchased any extended warrantiesicon before, as I've always believed them to be a bit of a waste of money?
    Yeah sure, it's just I belong to a couple of forums and I've seen a variety of problems come up associated with Acer. You could reduce such stress for the princely sum of 30-40 so I consider it a good purchase. This is especially so when you've seen the number of complaints that people have had after the Acer Tech Support have gotten through with their 'repair', you can see proof of such things here: My Windows Refund Horror Story (Acer) - Ubuntu Forums . At least if you've got a extra warranty it simplifies things for three years.

    I sent them an email requesting information on how to obtain the refund, so will see what they say ..

    I read through that success story and noticed they offered around 40 for XP Professional, so not sure what they'll offer for Vista Home Premium. Maybe it could be worth it
    My fingers are duly crossed

    I'm not sure what I'll do if they insist on returning it at my expense. aside from the arguments above for being able to do it remotely, why should I have to pay for them to comply with the agreement they included on their product?
    Exactly, you shouldn't. There is a register.co.uk report of how it took some guy 4 months worth of emailing before Acer eventually gave up and just refunded him his copy of windows. It didn't say which one it was unfortunately. I suppose you can understand their position to some degree, afterall they get what the retailer paid for the laptop, plus the price that the windows license will bring them just as soon as it's authorised by windows update. The fly in the ointment comes when they find out that it's not getting activated and worst, you're aware of the eula and want your money back. Still, business is tough, and them's the breaks!

    *I've just had a couple of thoughts. If you find that they refuse to relent and must have the system returned to them. Ensure you take plenty of photographs to show the current state of the laptop. So that if it comes back to you in a worse state, you can prove the state it left you in.

    *Also, you could use a webcam on another computer and then reboot the laptop, then at least they shouldn't have any complaints about not seeing the computer boot up. As one of their issues maybe that you've got it dual booting. You may also like to email Microsoft UK and point out you want a refund from Acer. Then ask them how you go about removing the license key from the bottom of the laptop. Acer may just accept that you're not using the key and be done with it, or they might wish to remove or replace the bottom of the system so that there's no license key on it etc.

    Also mentioned on the forum thread (I've installed Linux, now give me my Windows refund - FedoraForum.org), is that it may also be a good idea to complain to the European Competition Commission, it can't hurt, so I will also be doing that. I just used the online chat facility on the europa website (European Commission - Europe Direct - Web Assistance), they where very helpful and gave me the direct link to the complaint form .. Europa - European Commission - Competition - Consumer Liaison Office
    Good idea. I'm sure you'll get your refund you'll just have to go up the company profile until you get to someone capable of making a decision. If it all goes badly, you could drop a line to register.co.uk or inquirer.net mentioning how Acer seem to have forgotten the agreement and just how disappointed you are, and to think you put your trust in Acer as it says all over the internet that they will honour the windows refund scheme

    I'll keep you posted .... :-|
    Thank you.

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  7. #7
    Basic Account Holder andylondonuk Novitiate

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    I got a reply from Acer, fairly quickly actually, it basically states the following:

    "You will need to contact Microsoft as this is their operating system and not ours."

    That was all they said! Well, I had actually guessed it was not Acer's operating system to be honest (what with it saying "Microsoft" on it and all that), but thanks for clarifying that anyway

    I've just replied quoting the paragrah from the EULA that specifically states to contact the manufacturer! Not a lot more you can say to that response really.

    Yeah sure, it's just I belong to a couple of forums and I've seen a variety of problems come up associated with Acer. You could reduce such stress for the princely sum of 30-40 so I consider it a good purchase. This is especially so when you've seen the number of complaints that people have had after the Acer Tech Support have gotten through with their 'repair', you can see proof of such things here: My Windows Refund Horror Story (Acer) - Ubuntu Forums . At least if you've got a extra warranty it simplifies things for three years.
    A good point, maybe something to spend my refund on! Although on the flip side, my partner has had the same model as myself (the reason I got it) for over a year now and had no problems with it whatsoever. But I have to admit, 30-40 for three years cover is actually not too bad.

    *I've just had a couple of thoughts. If you find that they refuse to relent and must have the system returned to them. Ensure you take plenty of photographs to show the current state of the laptop. So that if it comes back to you in a worse state, you can prove the state it left you in.
    I'd definitely take lots of pictures. But I don't really want to be sending it back, in fact I'll be contacting Trading Standards and any other agency/media I can think of before that happens!

    *Also, you could use a webcam on another computer and then reboot the laptop, then at least they shouldn't have any complaints about not seeing the computer boot up. As one of their issues maybe that you've got it dual booting. You may also like to email Microsoft UK and point out you want a refund from Acer. Then ask them how you go about removing the license key from the bottom of the laptop. Acer may just accept that you're not using the key and be done with it, or they might wish to remove or replace the bottom of the system so that there's no license key on it etc.
    By bizarre coincidence, my partner has ordered a brand new HD camcorder which is being delivered today, so that will come in handy for filming anything. Good idea about contacting Microsoft, I wonder what they'll have to say about Acer referring me to them.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    If you dont want MS OS, dont buy a system with it.

    I fail to see any basis, legal or otherwise, for getting a refund on the OS.

    The EULA doesnt really apply here, as you havent just bought the OS - you have bought a system with the OS preinstalled.

    Its like buying a TV with a remote control, deciding you dont want or need a remote control, and asking for a refund on the remote control itself.

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    If you dont want MS OS, dont buy a system with it.
    I would really love to have bought a laptop without Microsoft installed, but the reality is that this is very difficult for the average consumer to do this. I contacted several major online retailers and high street stores, all of them said that they could not supply one without Microsoft Windows installed.

    The EULA doesnt really apply here, as you havent just bought the OS - you have bought a system with the OS preinstalled.
    If the EULA doesn't apply, why is it included on the machine, separately to the Acer EULA? I can agree (or not agree) to the Acer EULA (for the laptop hardware) separately to the EULA for Microsoft and the Microsoft EULA clearly states I'm entitled to a refund if I do not agree to it. I agree to the Acer EULA, but not the Microsoft one, so the wording is clear, I'm entitled to a refund for Microsoft Windows Vista.

    So yes, the OS is pre-installed but I have not agreed to the license required use it, that is done (or not done) after purchase, when the machine first starts and EULA is displayed.

    I fail to see any basis, legal or otherwise, for getting a refund on the OS.
    Please see above.

    Its like buying a TV with a remote control, deciding you dont want or need a remote control, and asking for a refund on the remote control itself.
    I don't think that's an entirely accurate analogy. The remote control does not come with a seperate license agreement to the TV, entitling you to a refund for the remote control if you reject it.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    But you didnt buy the OS - you bought a system with the OS preinstalled.

    As such, there is no credit or refund to be applied, as you paid nothing for it (LEGALLY - I realise that the price is higher due to its inclusion).

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by human.error View Post
    Computer Supplies and PC Components from Novatech will sell you a laptop *without* an operating system, just click on 'customise' and then 'no operating system'. Likewise, if you purchase from Dell.co.uk and inform them at the time of purchase that you do not wish to use the Microsoft software\os etc then they will ask you to return the disks\licenses to them still sealed and they will reimburse you an interesting 7 or so, yes you did read that correctly, I did put 7 it's actually something like 5 plus vat, insurance and postage that they're charged per installation.

    As for proving that the OS isn't installed, there should be no reason to send it away. Just ask one of their 'tech' people to connect via vpn and then they'll be able to 'see' that you're not using the installed OS wouldn't they? We live in a technological age, there should be no reason to be sending laptops here and there to prove you don't want a particular OS, that's just ridiculous surely they must be able to identify the system via some means other than physically seeing it.

    HTH
    Yeah..There are quite a few places that sell laptops and PC's without OS's. As you mentioned Dell being one example, (I used to buy from Dell for my old job).

    You could also just take off the OS and resell it, (complete with the licence), not sure if you'd get 50, I recently bought a small netbook for 199 from Currys, it had XP on it which i didnt really want (i've since installed Windows 7), but even when I searched online I still couldnt get a cheaper equal spec netbook with or without a OS.

    But I certainly wouldnt recommend setting up a VPN connection so that people can snoop at your PC, for starters its difficult to set up, even more difficult to set up on Linux or whatever non-windows system you are going to be using, you can setup programs such as LogMeIn or GotoMyPC which are simple but i'd certainly never let anyone else connect to my PC and nose about !

    Andy


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by andydd View Post
    You could also just take off the OS and resell it, (complete with the licence), not sure if you'd get 50, I recently bought a small netbook for 199 from Currys, it had XP on it which i didnt really want (i've since installed Windows 7), but even when I searched online I still couldnt get a cheaper equal spec netbook with or without a OS.
    Not unless its full retail you cant. It is against licensing to resell OEM.

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by MrShed View Post
    As such, there is no credit or refund to be applied, as you paid nothing for it (LEGALLY - I realise that the price is higher due to its inclusion).
    Agreed - it was just something which was 'bundled' with the laptop. If the laptop had been bundled with some other software, or even some hardware such as a printer, you would have no right to return the said software or hardware and demand a pro-rata refund. In fact, retailers often state that returns are only accepted if you return the full bundle.

    With regards to the warranties being discussed, I would argue that more often than not these warranties are of little value as they don't offer anything above your statutory rights other than sometimes including accidental damage cover, which you would often have as part of a home insuranceicon policy anyway. Always check what exactly the warranty covers you for as some of them simply aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    But you didnt buy the OS - you bought a system with the OS preinstalled.
    Yes it was pre-installed, but I must have paid something for it, as Microsoft Vista is not a free product. There was nothing in the description saying the OS was included free of charge, it was simply included in the list of items installed in the laptop; RAM, Processor, Graphics Card etc. I assume I paid for all these other items (otherwise the laptop would be free), so as the OS is in the same list, I can assume it is under the same terms and I paid for that also.

    The Microsoft EULA agreement clearly states I'm entitled to a refund for the OS if I do not agree to the terms, which I do not. Here is the relevant paragraph again for reference:

    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 their return policy for a refund or credit.

    I realise that the price is higher due to its inclusion
    Maybe I misunderstood here, but if the price is higher when Microsoft Windows is included, surely I've paid the extra for it and not just donated money to Acer


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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by andydd
    Yeah..There are quite a few places that sell laptops and PC's without OS's. As you mentioned Dell being one example, (I used to buy from Dell for my old job).
    I also thought Dell sold without OS or Linux installed, but I called them ready to order and they told me that they definitely do not. He went and double checked and that was their final answer

    Quote Originally Posted by andydd
    You could also just take off the OS and resell it
    As MrShed mentions, this is against the OEM license, besides I got no discs with the laptop, only what was on the Hard Disk, so I have nothing to sell anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by barracad
    Agreed - it was just something which was 'bundled' with the laptop. If the laptop had been bundled with some other software, or even some hardware such as a printer, you would have no right to return the said software or hardware and demand a pro-rata refund. In fact, retailers often state that returns are only accepted if you return the full bundle.
    But the other items "bundled" with the laptop do not come with a seperate agreement, specifically providing for a refund.


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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by andylondonuk View Post
    But the other items "bundled" with the laptop do not come with a seperate agreement, specifically providing for a refund.
    If it is other software apart from Windows, then it will almost certainly come with its own agreement which you need to accept. Laptops and PCs are often bundled with 'free' software - be it antivirus software, or things such as Nero - if you don't want to use them then don't expect to be able to get a partial credit. Of course, you can negotiate this before you buy but if you buy it with Windows or the other software included you are buying that bundle at that price - if you're not happy with it, don't buy it!

    Furthermore, the agreement does not specifically provide for a refund. Firstly, Microsoft control that agreement and they have no way of implementing a refund policy with your retailer. Secondly, the agreement doesn't even state that you are entitled to a refund. I don't know what the EULA says but will assume that your quote is accurate:

    Quote Originally Posted by andylondonuk View Post
    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 their return policy for a refund or credit.
    The key word here is determine. i.e. contact the store to find out what their return policy is - whether they will give a credit for not using the software, or whether you will need to rescind the agreement and return the entire package for a full refund.

    The message is basically saying that if you don't accept their terms, don't proceed any further and don't use the software. Nowhere does it state that you are entitled to any form of partial refund.

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by andydd View Post

    But I certainly wouldnt recommend setting up a VPN connection so that people can snoop at your PC, for starters its difficult to set up, even more difficult to set up on Linux or whatever non-windows system you are going to be using, you can setup programs such as LogMeIn or GotoMyPC which are simple but i'd certainly never let anyone else connect to my PC and nose about !

    Andy
    He's not going too though is he, I'm merely suggesting that instead of returning the machine to Acer Head Quaters for them to reboot it a few times and determine whether the machine is hiding a copy of windows with the license key that's present on the base of the machine. So he doesn't have to return it, he merely agrees a time to let them connect to the machine and then do whatever it is the want to do.

    The advantages are plain to see, the OP doesn't have to send the machine therefore saving postage, insurance or carbon miles. I'm sure the OP will then advise them into which folders they can look in or not, and if they deviate from the agreed path, then he can simply grab the mouse and stop them going anywhere further. Realistically however, all they're going to have to do is connect, then run a linux software similar too Everest or Belarc Advisor (OProfiler) and the jobs done.

    Unless he's Gary Glitter or unless he's got information for his eyes only, there's not a lot the people from Acer will be able to gleam from his file names or whatever. So therefore alot of messing around saved and all it will take is them to inform whoever at Acer\Microsoft the OS isn't being used and that's that. I also suggested a couple of Linux versions of programs not just gotomypc etc I prefer TeamViewer myself however

    HTH


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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by MrShed View Post
    Not unless its full retail you cant. It is against licensing to resell OEM.
    HHmm..ok..never bothered to read it to be honest, but surely you can legally resell a PC with an OS on it ?.


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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by andydd View Post
    HHmm..ok..never bothered to read it to be honest, but surely you can legally resell a PC with an OS on it ?.
    The OEM usually specifies that the software can only be sold or given away with a specific piece of hardware, so it is fine for the OS to be sold/included with the PC but you wouldn't be able to sell it on its own.

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    Default Re: Refund of "Microsoft Tax"

    Quote Originally Posted by barracad View Post
    The OEM usually specifies that the software can only be sold or given away with a specific piece of hardware, so it is fine for the OS to be sold/included with the PC but you wouldn't be able to sell it on its own.
    Well..Ive never actually bothered to fork out my hard earned cash on MS products, I always seem to acquire a 'free' versions, currently Windows 7 on my laptop, home pc and media centre pc and windows home server and server 2008 on my server, but dont do this at home kids, MS are very poor and need your money

    Human.error

    Although in reality showing that the laptop no longer has a MS OS on it doesnt mean much, you could quite easily take an 'image' before hand using True Image and then put it back on letr, of course this would be very naughty.

    Andy



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