6 January 2005 Companies and individuals in California will leave around $1 billion of Microsoft’s cash unclaimed as the deadline for compensation for the company’s previous monopoly abuses expires this Saturday.
The compensation, which results from a $1.1 billion fine imposed on Microsoft in 1999, is available to companies and individuals who purchased Microsoft Office, Word or Windows applications between 1995 and 2001. Under the ‘anti-trust’ settlement, they are eligible to receive vouchers worth $5 for each copy of Word, $16 for each copy of Windows and $29 for each copy of Microsoft Office. The vouchers entitle users to purchase new software from any supplier, not just Microsoft.
But, as of 28 December, only 620,000 out of a potential 14 million claims had been filed. According to the Settlement Recovery Center (SRC), which specializes in fund recovery claims in class action lawsuits, 80% of the settlement fees are scheduled to be awarded to companies.
Similar anti-monopoly lawsuits were filed by other states in the US, including Florida, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin, with total claims amounting to $1.87 billion. However, the California case is by far the largest. Judge Paul Alvarado of the California Superior Court gave final approval of the settlement on 8 November 2004, saying that the window for claimants would last for just 60 days.
However, even if Microsoft users fail to submit their claims before the cut-off date of 8 January, the state of California will still benefit: the unusual settlement ruling states that Microsoft must donate two-thirds of the unclaimed amount to underprivileged schools in California for buying technology.