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The sale of a computer equipped with pre-installed software isn’t an unfair commercial practice because most customers prefer to buy a laptop they can use straight away, Europe’s top court has ruled in a victory for Sony.
“Failure to indicate the price of each item of pre-installed software” isn’t misleading, the Court of Justice of the European Union added in its ruling (PDF) on Wednesday.
The CJEU was asked to intervene after French citizen Vincent Deroo-Blanquart took Sony to court for failing to reimburse the cost of pre-installed software—Windows Vista Home Premium operating system—that he did not wish to use on a laptop.
Sony refused and instead offered to cancel the sale altogether.
Deroo-Blanquart sued on the basis of a 2005 EU directive on unfair business-to-consumer commercial conduct that prohibits practices that “distort the economic behaviour of consumers.” He argued there was no option to purchase the same model of computer without the pre-installed software, nor was the price of each item of software indicated.
In its judgment, the court threw out those gripes.
The CJEU said:
The sale of such equipped computers can satisfy the requirements of professional diligence, taking account of the fact that the sale by Sony of computers with pre-installed software meets the expectations of a significant proportion of consumers who prefer to purchase a computer already equipped and ready for immediate use, rather than to purchase a computer and software separately.
It also took the view that the failure to indicate the price of each item of software is not such as to prevent the consumer from making an informed transactional decision.
However, the CJEU doesn’t rule on the dispute itself.
It’s left up to the national court, in this case the French Cour de Cassation.
It’s worth noting that the ruling could be bad news for free software, which is rarely offered on new machines.
If Europe’s highest court had gone the other way, then open source might have been more widely offered and used.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK
Listing image by Leo Leung