Timeline, Including Press Coverage

[Bill Gates]

"Wait -- do I see a pattern here?"

Copyright © 1999 Rick Moen.
Permission to redistribute copies of this document is permitted provided that this notice remains intact.


U.S. v. Microsoft 1995 Consent Decree

Settlement agreement between Microsoft and US DOJ (Department of Justice). Bans Microsoft from signing OEMs to per-CPU licensing used previously, as being a restraint of trade. Allows "per-model" software licensing that apply in all cases that follow. For example, to get competitive Windows 95 pricing, Toshiba would have had to agree that all units of its Satellite Pro laptops must be sold with that OS.

Donna's Refund -- January 1997

Earliest recorded Windows refund story, that of "Donna" and Canon Computer.

Geoffrey Bennett's Refund -- February 1998

Landmark six-month refund saga with Toshiba Australia, a year after Donna's.

David Chun's Survey -- May 1998

Twelve major-name PC manufacturers state (among other things) that they categorically refuse to process any refunds for bundled Windows 95 software.

Chris Schoedel's Refund -- December 1998

PC manufacturer eMachines, Inc. agrees to refund Chris $26 and establishes a policy for future returns, after she threatens litigation.

Windows Refund Center -- founded Tuesday, Jan. 19, 1999.


Microsoft Windows Refund for the Bay Area -- founded Wednesday, Jan. 20, 1999.


Refund Frequently Asked Questions (Bay Area) -- founded Friday, Jan. 22, 1999.


Windows Refund Newsletter -- founded Tuesday, Jan. 19, 1999.


Mozilla.org Open Directory WinRefund category -- founded Thursday, Jan. 21, 1999.

http://dmoz.org/Computers/ Operating_Systems/Microsoft_Windows/WinRefunds/

Windows Refund Day Events, Orange County -- founded Thursday, Jan. 21, 1999.


Katy Calbreath's EULA Conversation with Gateway -- Monday, Jan. 25, 1999.


Hiroyuki Nishimura's Windows Refunds in Japan site -- founded Monday, Jan. 25, 1999.

Hiroyuki Nishimura has begun coordinating Windows refunds for Japan, and received 2000+ visitors in the first two days. (Japanese-language site.)

A Japanese User's Refund

A Japanese user (snozawa@env.sci.ibaraki.ac.jp) returned his unused copy of Windows 98 to Panasonic. (Japanese-language site.)

Simon Hill's Refund -- Jan. 29, 1999

Dell Computer agrees to pay Simon $199!


Microsoft's Windows 98 End-User License Agreement (EULA).


The Windows 98 EULA, annotated.



JAN. 20, 1999 - WEDNESDAY:

InfoWorld Electric, Jeff Walsh

http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/ displayStory.pl?990120.wcrefund.htm
Describes Geoffrey Bennett story, refund campaign. Quotes an unnamed Toshiba America rep. as saying refunds for their PCs and bundled OSes are not separable, despite Bennett's experience.

Sm@rt Reseller / PC Week Online / Ziff-Davis Network News, Mary Jo Foley

First press sighting of the "loophole" characterization later picked up by other reporters: Following Microsoft's own refund instructions is characterized as "exploiting a little-known loophole". Describes Bennett story, founding of Windows Refund Center, consumer-group investigation. Cites major OEM dissatisfaction with Microsoft licensing over many years. Same story is carried on all three sites, except the ZDNN rendition has a comment facility that's accumulated an amazing volume of public postings.

Wired News, Chris Oakes

Describes development of Windows Refund Center, inspired by Bennett's account. Quotes corporate attorney Erwin Shustak as saying that both Microsoft and OEMs have been dishonoring customers' clear contractual rights, and expects eventual class-action lawsuits.

Ziff-Davis Network News, Lisa Bowman

Concise but detailed piece outlining formation of San Francisco Bay Area refund initiative.

JAN. 21, 1999 - THURSDAY:

Australian, Nicole Manktelow

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/masthead/ theoz/state/4307354.htm
Account of Geoffrey Bennett's six-month refund saga.

CNET's news.com, Stephanie Miles

Describes refund campaign; calls the EULA clause a "loophole".

Computable Online (in Dutch)

Brief account of Geoffrey Bennett's experience and the refund campaign.

ComputerWire News Service, Rachel Chalmers

http://www.computerwire.com/cgi-bin/view? article=yAxbvrzeivhktIdDgzddcRvlUX0o3h3 o3WUo6h3l2icmSb0sth2QAZaDhZvv
Describes Bennett's story, Slashdot discussion, and the creation of the first two Windows Refund Day Web sites.

ComputerWorld Sweden, Håkan Ogelid (in "Svensk")

Briefly notes creation of the refund campaign.

Fairfax I.T. News, Nathan Cochrane

Account of the Bennett story. Quotes Australian consumer groups labelling the refund delay "breathtaking", and the entire story indicating a need for close scrutiny of Microsoft and OEMs' abridgement of consumer rights.

Linux Today, Dave Whitinger

Details Geoffrey Bennett's story, formation of Windows Refund Center and Bay Area site, sundry press coverage, and measures being taken to exclude (and prosecute) any software bootleggers who try to join.

LinuxWorld, Daniel P. Dern

http://www.linuxworld.com/linuxworld/ lw-1999-01/lw-01-refund.html
Excellent roundup of entire story to date. Quotes unnamed Toshiba America rep. as saying that refunds will not be available at all. Notes that Windows-free machines are essentially unavailable from major brands. Quotes consumer groups; mentions small, Linux-oriented hardware vendors.

Mac Observer

http://www.macobserver.com/news/99/ january/990121/windowsrefund.html
Describes Windows Refund Center Web site; mentions that manufacturers such as Dell [compare Jan. 22 Wired article] are slowly offering no-OS options at the direct-sales level, but almost never at the retail one.

Sm@rt Reseller / PC Week Online / Ziff-Davis Network News / MSNBC, Mary Jo Foley

Notes heavy response to Windows Refund Center site. Quotes Microsoft legal affairs spokesman Adam Sohn as saying OEMs aren't coerced, denies intent to stage "astroturf" counter-demonstration, deflects refund question back to the OEMs. Curiously, unlike the earlier Mary Jo Foley story, this one lacks the ZDNN rendition's customary public-comment facility. (However, the MSNBC site has one.)

ZDnet UK, Lisa Bowman

Reprint of Bowman's Feb. 20th ZDNN article.

Ziff-Davis AnchorDesk, Liz Enbysk

Brief story intro, explaining Bennett's experience and the growing Windows Refund movement emerging from it.

JAN. 22, 1999 - FRIDAY:

CMPnet TechWeb, Andy Patrizio

Speculates that the Windows Refund movement may inspire more preload offerings of Linux and other non-Microsoft OSes. Quotes unidentified Compaq rep as saying that refunds are available only for the entire PC plus software. Quotes industry analyst Dwight Davis as saying that the movement embarrasses Microsoft by highlighting its dominance over OEMs.

CNN Interactive, Jeff Walsh

http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/ 9901/22/refunds.idg/index.html
Reprint of Jeff Walsh's Jan. 20 InfoWorld story.

ComputerWire News Service, Rachel Chalmers

http://www.computerwire.com/cgi-bin/view? article=yPxpvgzAiQhotQdSgkdachvyUf0P3j 3T3JUs6tcGcXcBSa0Utf2kAhaahhvZ
Reports Microsoft legal affairs spokesman Adam Sohn dismissing Windows Refund Day, and charging Geoff Bennett with deliberately violating his Windows license (suggesting that he was bootlegging software, which suggestion the reporter comments "can be safely laughed off"). Sohn says users' sole recourse is through the OEMs and must be subject to their policies, including refund of the entire software + PC bundle (contrary to the EULA terms, which provide for refund of the software alone). Quotes an unnamed Toshiba spokesman as refusing refund of just the bundled software per company policy, and declining to comment on Bennett's refund.

Fairfax I.T. News, Nathan Cochrane

Mentions that Microsoft quietly removed the refund clause from Windows 98's EULA in Australia (where the 1995 consent decree, the probable reason for its presence in the USA, has no effect). Estimates that "millions" of users are aiming for refunds. Quotes Microsoft Australia spokeswoman Helen Baric saying that OEMs and customers are "free to choose any operating system they want". Toshiba rep. Laurie White says Toshiba refuses to issue any OS refunds, mentions that Microsoft would not be willing to reimburse Toshiba for such refunds, and eventually refused further comment on advice of corporate counsel.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Jack Brown

http://www.phillynews.com/inquirer/ 99/Jan/22/business/SOFT22.htm
Covers the Bennett story and rise of the Windows Refund effort. Quotes Toshiba America spokeswoman Lisa O'Connell as saying that Bennett's refund was "probably against company policy", followed immediately by Microsoft legal affairs spokesman Adam Sohn reiterating that users should seek refunds from OEMs, not Microsoft.

San Jose Mercury News

Good Morning Silicon Valley column says mark your calendars!

Wired News, Chris Oakes

Quotes corporate attorney Erwin Shustak as saying that the consumer class-action lawsuits that are likely to result from this controversay will probably establish that Microsoft and OEMs have conspired to make refunds impossible, and that the issue is strongly relevant to the current DOJ lawsuit. Microsoft legal affair spokesman Adam Sohn denies the relevance, says the EULA clause merely provides that if customers don't accept its terms, that "there is a recourse for that". (This seems to mean Microsoft asserts that software-refund claims against OEMs should be honored, as being that "recourse".) Dell Manager of Corporate Public Relations T.R. Reid cites "quality assurance" as its reason for refusing refund of software per the EULA (to all appearances, a non-sequitur statement). Gateway claims that if the purchaser turns on his new Gateway computer even once (presumably even to boot from a replacement OS's installation disk, not Windows), he thereby consents to the EULA.

JAN. 24, 1999 - SUNDAY:

New York Post, Joseph Gallivan

Describes Geoffrey Bennett's story at length, and setup of the Windows Refund Center site.

JAN. 25, 1999 - MONDAY:

CNN Interactive, Daniel P. Dern

Reprint of Daniel P. Dern's Jan. 21 LinuxWorld article.

ComputerWire News Service, William Fellows

http://www.computerwire.com/cgi-bin/view? article=yMxvvWzIiahZtjdFgZdGcKvpUF0 a3L3Q3eUR6Vrc2kcySf0Qtb2SAraUhrvK
Mentions that Caldera, Inc. CEO Bryan Sparks says Caldera will do all it can to help Windows Refund Day.

Information Week / CMPnet TechWeb, Rick Whiting

Financial analyst guesses Microsoft won't pay up, predicts lawsuits.

Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Gaw

http://www.latimes.com/cgi-bin/slwebcli? DBLIST=lt99&DOCNUM=7235
Cites Geoffrey Bennett story, quotes unnamed Toshiba America rep. as saying that it will not accept returns of bundled software.

Los Angeles Times (Orange County Edition), Jonathan Gaw

http://www.latimes.com/cgi-bin/slwebcli? DBLIST=lt99&DOCNUM=7247
Portrays Toshiba Corp. as caught between Microsoft and users in this issue. Includes remarks by Orange County Refund Day leader Deirdre Saoirse.

New York Times, Laurie J. Flynn

http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/01/ biztech/articles/25computer-briefs.html
Describes Bay Area Linux effort's reasons for going directly to Microsoft; quotes Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla ducking the question of whether they'll honor the EULA clause (claiming they've "received no requests for refunds").

PC Week Online, Eric Lundquist

//www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/ columns/0,4351,387025,00.html
Editor-in-chief Lundquist mentions cooperation with Windows Refund Day as one way Microsoft might redress its reputation as a monopolist.


Describes the Windows refund effort and the plans underway for a group product-return expedition to Microsoft in Foster City, CA.

JAN. 26, 1999 - TUESDAY:

Newsbytes News Network, Adam Creed

Describes development of Windows Refund effort from Geoff Bennett's experience; mentions astonishing growth of the Windows Refund Newsletter subscriber base, and broadening of involvement.

JAN. 27, 1999 - WEDNESDAY:

Linux Today

Has full text of the Windows Refund Day press release, and notes publication of Windows Refund Newsletter issue #1.

The Register, Graham Lea

Discusses refund options, points out that the restrictive terms of shrink-wrapped software licences are invalid under UK law.

JAN. 28, 1999 - THURSDAY:

Linux Weekly News, Jonathan Corbett

LWN's editor refers to the Windows Refund movement "snowballing", provides links to the major Web sites, describes "Donna's" case, and makes some interesting observations about long-term consequences.

Linux Weekly News Daily, Jonathan Corbett

Summarizes the San Francisco Chronicle article (below).

San Francisco Chronicle, Benny Evangelista

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi? file=/chronicle/archive/1999/01/28/BU74183.DTL
Explains plans and rationale for Windows Refund Day in the Bay Area. Also mentions local organizing in Orange County CA, New York City, and Japan. Interesting statement from Microsoft legal affairs spokesman Adam Sohn that Microsoft "has not decided how to handle the refund-seekers". Quotes Dell Manager of Corporate Public Relations T.R. Reid as denying all refunds of just the bundled OS, but also eMachines, Inc. marketing director Pattie Adams saying not only that eMachines will honor the claim, but that all OEMs "are obliged to do the same thing, if the consumer for whatever reason doesn't want Windows."

JAN. 29, 1999 - FRIDAY:

KGO-TV Channel 7 (San Francisco) news coverage

Still pictures only (no transcript) of ABC affiliate KGO-TV's news story that also chronicled the rise of Linux hardware retailer VA Research.

RISKS Digest

Summary of New York Times article, by way of Edupage.

FEB. 2, 1999 - TUESDAY:

Liberation (France), Laurant Mauriac (in French)

Describes how refunds are still being routinely denied. Details plans led by officer Stéfane Fermigier of the very active AFUL Linux group and noted author Roberto Di Cosmo to return Windows copies, en masse. Says HP France will sell PCs without Windows, but only for orders of 100 or more units. Sidebar quotes technology law expert Raoul Fuentes as saying that the forced tying of sales of distinct products ("dependent sales") is prohibited by European law.

The Star (Malaysia), Chan Lee Meng

Describes Geoff Bennett's story in depth, and the rise and rationale of the Windows Refund Day campaign.

FEB. 3, 1999 - WEDNESDAY:

Network World, Dave Kearns

http://www2.idg.com.au/nwwdb.NSF/ ac66ab1843524d34ca2564910005736c/ 5bb2f27a337a76f14a25670b007b6cce
Describes Bennett saga, and resulting Windows Refund Day efforts.

The Times (London), Kenny MacIver

http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/ 99/02/03/timintint02012.html?2006724
Brief mention of the EULA refund clause and the Bay Area visit to Microsoft.

FEB. 5, 1999 - FRIDAY:

The Industry Standard, Prof. Lawrence Lessig

http://www.thestandard.net/articles/ display/0,1449,3423,00.html
Ponders the Windows Refund initiative as a rare and surprising example of one-sided and legally-dubious contract (the EULA) suddenly becoming a genuine vehicle for customer rights. Points out that a proposed revision of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC 2b) may legitimise presently-dubious "click-wrap" contracts like the EULA, but that even those guarantee customers refund rights that an Internet-based campaign can effectively assert.

The News-Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), Christina Dyrness

General coverage of Windows Refund Day. Quotes Dell Manager of Corporate Public Relations T.R. Reid as saying that Dell "had no formal response". Quotes Microsoft PR firm spokesman Bill Zolna as saying that customers should get refunds from their OEMs, and local independent commentator Rob Day as saying that Microsoft is violating its own licensing agreement.

FEB. 7, 1999 - SUNDAY:

Detroit News, Christina Dyrness

Edited reprint of the Feb. 6 News-Observer article.

San Francisco Examiner, Rebecca L. Eisenberg

Details origin of Windows Refund Day in Donna's and Geoff Bennett's stories and Slashdot, the founding of the Windows Refund Center Web site, and the Bay Area event, which she says will include a parade and party (and that she intends to join those).

FEB. 8, 1999 - MONDAY:

ABCNEWS.com, Michael J. Martinez

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/tech/ DailyNews/refunds990208.html
Details Windows Refund Day story from Geoff Bennet's case to the present day. Quotes eMachines spokeswoman Pattie Adams as saying that all OEMs must honor the refund clause as part of their contracts. Quotes Microsoft legal affairs spokesman Adam Sohn as saying that OEMs have already agreed to uphold the refund clause as part of their contracts with Microsoft.

InfoTech Weekly (New Zealand), Mark Hucke

Describes in detail the planned local event in Wellington, involving 50 or more PC users returning their Windows software to a local Microsoft office, coordinated by the local UniForum group. Quotes Microsoft marketing manager Guy Haycock as saying Microsoft has no obligation. Article explains that PC users have resorted to Microsoft after meeting "a brick wall" with OEMs. Quotes Dell NZ managing director as saying that refunds may be valued at zero if the bundled copy of Windows was "costed" that way. Compaq NZ public relations manager Hugh Scott made no comment pending consultation with the home office. An unnamed IBM NZ spokesman said that company was consulting its Australian office.

FEB. 9, 1999 - TUESDAY:

The Australian, Garth Montgomery

Summarizes current status as both Microsoft and the OEMs having no intention of honoring the refund clause: Quotes Toshiba Australia managing director Bruce Lakin as saying that its PCs aren't available without Windows (which wasn't the question Montgomery asked). Quotes Gateway marketing manager Michelle Vanzella as saying her firm is test-marketing Linux (but likewise not answering Montgomery's question). Quotes Compaq spokeswoman Anne Eckert as saying that her company does not yet have a policy.

The Press On-Line (New Zealand), David Armstrong

Describes local Windows Refund Day event at a UniForum gathering and a nearby Microsoft office in Wellington, New Zealand, in the context of events worldwide.

FEB. 10, 1999 - WEDNESDAY:

ComputerWire News Service, Rachel Chalmers

http://www.computerwire.com/cgi-bin/view? article=yxxsvozPiShStadQggdccfvLUjhLx VpAcPmiUx0Etx9Y7mcoSi7r1EcPAmaThPvL
Characterizes preparations for Refund Day as "in high gear", arranging car pools and convoys. Refers back to her earlier report of Microsoft's summary dismissal of the event and questioning of Geoff Bennett's motives. Summarizes near-total refusal by OEMs to honor the clause, and suggests that this record justifies going directly to Microsoft.

Le Monde Interactif (Paris), Denis Delbecq (in French)

Describes Windows Refund Day campaign in France, led by Roberto Di Cosmo.

Le Monde Interactif (Paris), Denis Delbecq (in French)

Describes legal investigations and lawsuits currently pending against Microsoft in France, because of mandatory sales of Windows with PCs.

Le Monde Interactif (Paris), Denis Delbecq (in French)

In-depth portait of the world-wide Windows Refund Day effort. Estimates potential refund-seekers to number in the millions. States that Microsoft quietly changed the refund clause's wording for the Windows 98 release to state that it should be returned "without delay to possibly obtain a refund". Quotes Microsoft France marketing director Olivier Ezratty as dismissing the Windows Refund initiative, and saying that customers will have to discuss the matter solely with OEMs.

Orange County Weekly, Wyn Hilty

Details Bennett saga, then profiles Deirdre Saoirse's Orange County initiative. Quotes Microsoft legal affairs spokesman Adam Sohn as falling back on his earlier "PR stunt" characterization.

Village Voice (New York City), Claire Barliant

Profiles the LXNY-led New York City event. Says "The logic behind Refund Day is irrefutable: people shouldn't have to pay for software they don't want." One prospective Refund Day participant was informed by Gateway Computer that installing a non-Microsoft operating system would void her warranty!

FEB. 11, 1999 - THURSDAY:

Linux Weekly News, Jonathan Corbett

Explains the rationale of Windows Refund Day, and notes the various local efforts.

PC World India, Niyam Bhushan

Account of Geoff Bennett's and Donna's stories, and the rise of the Windows Refund Day effort worldwide. Predicts that Microsoft will issue refunds, and invites accounts from any Indian PC users who decide to seek refunds. (First publication is on this Web site, by permission of the author.)

FEB. 12, 1999 - FRIDAY:

Business Wire

Press release describing the Foster City event at Microsoft, pointing out that open-source luminaries Eric S. Raymond and Larry Augustin will be helping lead it.

FEB. 13, 1999 - SATURDAY:

LinuxWorld (IDG News Service), James Niccolai

Covers growing size of the Refund Day events in five countries. Quotes Microsoft Windows group product manager Rob Bennett as saying Microsoft will refuse payments, and instruct users on how to contact OEMs (the same OEMs who have consistently turned away refund-seekers to date). Quotes organizers as speculating that Microsoft will be prepared to do the right thing on the day of the event.

San Francisco Chronicle, Benny Evangelista

http://www.sfchronicle.com/cgi-bin/ article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/ 1999/02/13/BU78605.DTL
Coverage of the Bay Area event. Quotes Microsoft Windows group product manager Rob Bennett as saying that OEMs must make the refund "decision".

Yahoo Daily News (from Reuters), Therese Poletti

http://dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/tc/story.html? s=v/nm/19990213/tc/linux_4.html
Concise article on the Bay Area and worldwide Windows Refund Day efforts. Quotes Refund Day organizer Don Marti as saying that the obstacles have been fundamentally just bureaucracy. Quotes Microsoft legal affairs spokesman Adam Sohn falling back on the don't bother us, talk to the OEMs line. Quotes Dell Manager of Corporate Public Relations T.R. Reid as making the non-sequitur argument that the fact that an OS is required to set up and test the system means refunds cannot be given for the software alone.


News clipping archive:

The Open Directory Project's Windows Refund category

http://dmoz.org/Computers/ Operating_Systems/Microsoft_Windows/WinRefunds/

On-line discussions in:

LinuxWorld Magazine's refund newsgroup

news://forum.linuxworld.com/ linuxworld.forums.articles.1999-01-refund

InfoWorld Electric "Wintel to Lintel" Web forum


Ziff-Davis Anchor Desk/Berst Alerts Web forum


The rather chaotic MSNBC discussion forum