MS ANTITRUST - Microsoft settles Florida class suits

MS ANTITRUST - Microsoft settles Florida class suits

Microsoft will pay up to $US202 million to settle class action suits in Florida that accused it of violating the state's antitrust and unfair competition laws, the company said on Tuesday.

The money will be distributed among consumers and businesses that bought Microsoft's operating systems, productivity suite, spreadsheet or word processing software between November 16, 1995, and December 31, 2002, for use in Florida, the company said in a statement.

The settlement was filed on Tuesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court and has been given preliminary approval. A hearing for final approval of the deal was set for November 24, Microsoft said.

The terms require Microsoft to pay up to $202 million, which will be distributed in the form of vouchers that can be used to buy a desktop, laptop or tablet computer from any manufacturer, running any operating system and software, the company said.

Microsoft will provide half of any settlement money that goes unclaimed to needy public schools in Florida in the form of vouchers. Those vouchers will also be good for computer equipment, software and training from any manufacturer, the company said. About 1600 Florida schools will be eligible for the vouchers.

In January Microsoft settled class action lawsuits in California for $1.1 billion in a similarly structured deal. That settlement took care of the lion's share of the private antitrust cases pending against Microsoft, the company said at the time.

The private cases followed a federal court finding that Microsoft had abused its monopoly status in the desktop operating systems market to the detriment of consumers. A settlement in that case was approved last year.

Bill Piotrowski, executive director of technology and information services for Leon District Schools, hailed the Florida deal as "great news for schools all across Florida".

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said the settlement allows Microsoft to avoid "the cost and uncertainty of a lengthy trial" and focus on the future.

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