Microsoft came under attack from two fronts on Monday following the filing of a class action lawsuit against it and calls from consumer advocates that its Internet Explorer (IE) browser should be sold separately from Windows.
Three veteran class action lawyers, Terry Gross and Francis Scarpulla of San Francisco and Daniel Mogin of San Diego, filed the suit on behalf of millions of Californian computer users, accusing Microsoft of using its monopolist powers to overcharge them for its Windows 95 and 98 operating systems.
But experts said that these and other potential litigants may have a difficult time using the government's findings to take on Microsoft. Microsoft itself described such class action suits as "misguided".
If the lawyers win the case, however, they are believed to be requesting triple damages on behalf of their plaintiffs, although the suit will not attempt to estimate what the financial effects on Windows users who were allegedly overcharged was likely to have been.
Additional suits have also been filed in New York, New Orleans and Birmingham, Alabama, in response to Judge Penfield Jackson's ruling a couple of weeks ago that Microsoft has abused its monopoly position over the desktop software market.
Meanwhile, James Love and Ralph Nader, advocates with the Consumer Project consumer group, have said that Microsoft should be required to sell IE separately from Windows as part of any resolution in the antitrust case against it because the issue took up so much time during trial.
They argue that if IE "was a separate divestiture, the entire browser market might well become competitive once again". But a Microsoft spokesperson said the proposal "seems particularly groundless". The supplier has always claimed that IE is an integral, unremovable part of Windows 98.
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