Italian judge punishes Lenovo for not reimbursing Windows license

A Microsoft Windows story with an absurd beginning, but a really happy ending.

Italian judge punishes Lenovo for not reimbursing Windows license /img/justice.jpg

In 2014, the italian Court of Cassation sanctioned the right of italian consumers to the refund of Microsoft Windows licenses, that are indiscriminately charged even to consumers who purchase computers with Windows pre-installed, but will immediately uninstall, and thus never use it.

Three years ago, Luca Bonissi, an italian advocate of “Free as in Freedom” software, who had already gone through similar experiences bought a Lenovo Ideapad tablet, and decided to get that refund, exactly because he would not run Windows on it anyway.

The boring details of what followed are (in Italian) in this report by the Italian Linux Society (ILS). To make a long story short,

  • in March 2018. Bonissi formally asked Lenovo to have his money back, first on their online help desk, then with a registered letter. Lenovo answered “NO, period”
  • reporting Lenovo to the italian Market Competition Watchdog (AGCM) had no effects, so in the summer of 2018 Bonissi called Lenovo to appear before a Justice of Peace, to settle the issue
  • Lenovo made so many objections that Bonissi had to hire in order to continue, well aware that this would have costed more than any refund a court could sanction
  • in June 2019, the first-level court closed the case in favour of Bonissi, saying Lenovo should refund the 42 Euros of the Windows license, plus 130 Euros of legal costs
  • One month later, Lenovo asked a total revision and rejection of that sentence, justifiying it with fifteen different arguments, totaling almost 60 pages

A wonderful happy ending

This second trial ended in December 2020, with the best of surprises, because this time the judge:

  • rejected the whole brief, because Lenovo explicitly commits to pay such refunds
  • sentenced Lenovo to pay not only the legal expenses of the trial, but also 20K Euros as “punitive damage”, explaining that Lenovo had

“abused of its right to appeal, by forcing the counterpart to reply to an absolutely disproportionate production of defensive legal documentation, that exemplifies the arrogance and prevarication of a commercial giant against a modest consumer”

Yay! What next?

First, sincere thanks to that italian judge.

The world would be a better place if all cases like this ended in the same way, and above all if such virdicts were accessible even to people who cannot afford to spend much more than they could ever reasonably expect to receive from a court. But this is exactly the reason why the Italian Linux Society gives all italian consumers the following advice, which is obviously valid in every jurisdiction:

  • always request the full refund of every Windows license they do not intend to use not intend to use that software, and,
  • forward any refusal they get to AGCM, because only if they receive enough requests they will act, eventually
  • also inform ILS, so they can publish all cases on their public “non-operating system” database, to keep the issue in full sight and “periodically solicit the official bodies responsible for monitoring the effective application of the 2014 law”