Lately, the spate of cases against Microsoft has been reminiscent of how Erin Brockovich’s efforts called out on the malpractices of a big conglomerate and subsequently made them own up to it.
For the uninitiated, Brockovich’s – who was not even a qualified advocate – relentless persuasion of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California is one of the most talked about and widely-known legal battles in recent memory.
Julia Roberts’ Oscar-winning turn in the biographical legal drama follows her collecting evidence and building up a water-tight case against the company for alleged contamination of drinking water in Hinkley, a south California town. The case was settled in the favor of the plaintiffs in 1996 for USD 333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct action lawsuit in the US history.
What makes the lawsuits filed against Microsoft similar to the Hinkley case?
The fact that Microsoft has been forced to give answers to consumers. That even an IT giant can’t get away with fooling people! Multiple lawsuits. All claiming Microsoft’s latest OS version did more harm than any good.
What were the charges against them?
Ever since its launch, Windows 10 has been plagued with criticism. Things came to a head, when ‘Windows 10 upgrades’ started damaging systems and even made users lose data. This was the last straw and Microsoft was dragged to court.
Take a look at the incidents:
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March 2017 – Three Illinois residents, Stephanie Watson, Robert Saiger, and Howard Goldberg filed a lawsuit in Chicago’s US District Court against Microsoft claiming Windows 10 upgrade made them lose their data and damaged their computers as well.
June 2016 – Teri Goldstein, a California-based travel agent filed yet another case stating Windows 10 update destroyed her computer.
July 2016 – Three Florida men took Microsoft to the court for violation of government laws for unsolicited ads. Also one in Haifa, Israel sued Microsoft claiming that it installed Windows 10 on the computer without consent.
Let’s give you further details..
March 2017 –
At the time, when Microsoft was about to launch Windows 10 Creators Update, Stephanie Watson, Robert Saiger and Howard Goldberg – all from Illinois – sued the company and filed a class action lawsuit and they alleged that upgrading the system cost them data loss and also damaged their computers.
Brief of individual complaints:
- Stephanie Watson claimed that Windows 10 installed on its own and erased important data from her computer and she had to hire a professional in order to recover the data. To her dismay, she was not completely successful. In the end, she had no choice but to purchase a new computer
- Robert Saiger installed Windows 10 on his own, but he claimed that after the installation, his computer stopped working. He also suffered data and monetary loss.
- Howard Goldberg also installed Windows 10 after procrastinating the installation request for 6 months. After making three unsuccessful attempts in installing Windows 10, he lost his data.
The plaintiffs wanted a compensation against the loss, attorney’s fees, lawsuit expenses, and other expenses that court thought suitable.
June 2016 –
Teri Goldstein, owner of a travel company in Sausalito, claimed the upgrade made her computer crash and she was not able to use her computer for many days.
She further claimed that she tried to take help from Microsoft customer support but in vain. She patiently endured the long calls with Microsoft technicians but in the end, she was offered to take $150.00 as compensation. Moreover, with the trouble, she had to face the rudeness of the regional manager, who simply denied to help her.
Goldstein ended up suing the company for making her system inoperable and wasting her time.
July 2016 –
Three Florida men took Microsoft to court and filed a class action lawsuit. They claimed that Windows 10 upgrade notifications and alerts comprises unsolicited advertisements and also violated FTC law for following deceptive and unfair business practices. Moreover, one user from Haifa, Israel sued Microsoft claiming that it installed Windows 10 on the computer without his consent. The act of upgrading without permission violated Israeli computer law.
What were the outcomes of the lawsuits?
Though quite a few cases were filed, not all of them were given an audience. Teri Goldstein’s case, however, had a positive outcome. Microsoft had to pay $10,000 to remunerate the loss, the plaintiff had suffered. Two other cases have not been finalized yet, but according to the lawsuit filed in March, Microsoft is in debt for $5 million against the loss and damages.
How did Microsoft react to the accusations?
One of the lawsuits ended in the favor of plaintiff as Microsoft didn’t pay much heed and sent a local retail store boy to represent the case. The case was closed in favor of Goldstein. Microsoft initially wanted to challenge the verdict but to avoid further lawsuit charges, the company ditched the appeal.
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Microsoft doesn’t seem to be bothered much by the other lawsuits. A Microsoft representative expressed his views in an email to The Register, “The Windows 10 free upgrade program was a choice designed to help people take advantage of the most secure, and most productive Windows. Customers had the option not to upgrade to Windows 10. If a customer who upgraded during the one year program needed help with the upgrade experience, we had numerous options including free customer support and 31-days to roll back to their old operating system. We believe the plaintiff’s’ claims are without merit.”
However, last week Microsoft issued an ‘apology’ statement for violating users’ rights in response to a lawsuit filed in Germany. It would seem the company is finally attaching due importance to the issue. But, the statement in connection with the US cases suggest otherwise.
Did Microsoft really give a ‘choice’ to upgrade, for the users?
For all practical purposes, they did not. When you impose something on your consumers, it’s neither an offer nor a choice.
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Windows 10 certainly is a far superior OS. However, Microsoft’s passive-aggressive approach to force users to use the upgrade backfired. A lot of users were not comfortable with the UI or the advanced features. They kept delaying the upgrade for several months.
So, Microsoft came up with an ingenious idea in the spring of 2015. They made some changes to the upgrade notification and it could no longer be dismissed or avoided. Users had to willingly or unwillingly upgrade their system to Windows 10.
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Microsoft executives have also accepted that things went too far and the final stages of the campaign crossed all the limits which resulted in the application behaving like a malware.
There were continuous notifications and pop-ups. In addition, even after the up gradation the users were not able to make themselves familiar with the new OS due to constant changes made in the native applications, which further frustrated customers.The desperation made things worse. The constant reminders and notifications to upgrade, is being perceived as violation of privacy by many users.
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Maybe, it’s time Microsoft swallowed its pride and took the pending cases against them a little more seriously instead of insisting ‘plaintiffs’ claims are without merit’. For all they know, it might balloon into something bigger and make another Erin Brockovich out of a legal clerk with no formal education in law!
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