French consumer group files complaints against HP

A French consumer group has filed three lawsuits against Hewlett-Packard and two electronics retailers concerning the sale of computers with preloaded software.

HP’s consumer PC offerings are sold with Microsoft’s Windows OS, said Alain Spitzmuller, legal affairs director for HP France.

The group, the Union Fédérale des Consommateurs-Que Choisir, (UFC) alleges consumers frequently lack the option of buying “bare” computers without software. UFC said it wants consumers to be able to choose the software for their machine and get reimbursed for purchasing an OS they did not want.

UFC contends the packaging of both hardware and software together violates a French law that prohibits linking the functionality of a product to another product.

HP, which this year overtook Dell as the world’s top PC maker, disputes the claim. The company is not in violation of the law because the OS is an integral part of the PC, Spitzmuller said.

“The PC without an OS is not a product because it doesn’t work,” Spitzmuller said. “We believe the market is for products that work.”

French courts have rejected two civil suits filed by individuals against HP that were founded on the same claim as UFC, Spitzmuller said.

Included in the complaints are retailers Auchan and Darty. The complaints were filed Thursday in courts in Paris, Bobigny and Nanterre, said Gaëlle Patetta, UFC legal director.

Spitzmuller said the judicial process will take months.

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