A California judge has set a precedent by allowing a class action lawsuit to move forward against Microsoft.
Superior Court Judge Stuart Pollak certified the lawsuit which alleges that the software giant's monopoly harmed Californian consumers. The suit was filed in early 1999 by Charles Lingo, a retired Silicon Valley engineer, and three other San Francisco residents.
Judge Pollak said an untold number of Microsoft consumers in California could all be represented in one trial to determine whether alleged monopolistic practices forced customers to pay higher costs for Microsoft products. In a 21-page opinion he stated that "denying the suit could result in repetitious litigation by individuals, some of whom might not go to court because of the expense".
Microsoft spokesman James Cullinan said the company is reviewing the ruling. "This is just one step in a long process in this case. We believe that at the end of the day it will be shown that far from harming consumers, the conduct at issue will be shown to benefit consumers," he said.
The suit contends that Microsoft used its monopoly in the software market to overcharge consumers for Windows, MS-DOS, Word and Excel software packages purchased on or after 18 May 1994.
The suit is one of about 130 filed by individuals against Microsoft since the US government filed a federal antitrust action against the company. But courts in Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Texas have dismissed similar class action suits as laws in those states do not allow such action to be taken.
Attorneys in the California case are scheduled to meet with Judge Pollak on 4 October to prepare for an as yet undetermined trial date.
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