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Microsoft Settlement Expected To Benefit Computer Users, Education In N.C.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When the federal government filed an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, local attorneys filed their own. The case claims the software giant unfairly monopolized the computer market. Both sides released an agreement that could earn you a discount the next time you buy computer equipment.

Lawyers from both sides reached a settlement of more than $89 million.

"Like most settlements, we don't agree to any liability. We don't think we overcharged anybody," Microsoft attorney Steve Aeschbacher said.

The deal would benefit anyone who bought Microsoft software that ranges from DOS to Windows 95 to Office to Excel. North Carolina consumers and businesses that can offer proof of purchase will be given $5 or $10 vouchers for each licensed product. Those vouchers are not cash, but they can be redeemed for computer products and not just Microsoft products.

Judge Ben Tenille raised concerns that consumers may have a hard time figuring out what software qualifies, but attorneys feel people will make the effort.

"I think people who like to have a nice coupon -- $30, $40, $50 or even more -- they are going to go out and use that," attorney Kieran Shanahan said.

Once vouchers are claimed, half of what is left of the $89 million will go to needy North Carolina schools to buy computers.

"We're really excited to find a solution to this legal problem that can deliver a real benefit to the state," Aeschbacher said.

Besides consumers, businesses with a lot of older Microsoft software could get thousands of dollars in vouchers. It could take months for the deal to win approval in the courts. At that point, a Web site will be set up so computer owners can submit claim forms.


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