Dell: Windows refund yes, Windows refund policy no

AUD$136 refund awarded to UK Linux user

Dell Tuesday gave freelance programmer and sysadmin Dave Mitchell, of Sheffield, UK, a refund of 47 pounds (AUD$116) for the unused copy of Microsoft Windows XP Home SP2 bundled with his new Dell Inspiron 640m laptop, Mitchell says. Dell also refunded the tax, for a total of £55.23 (AUD$136).

With few laptops available without the so-called "Microsoft tax", Windows refund requests have long been a slow movement among Linux community organizers. A few Linux users have reported success, but most laptop vendors have refused to honor the refund clause in Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA) unless the user returns the entire laptop. A Dell spokesperson was not aware of any policy change.

The online version of the Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition EULA states, "You agree to be bound by the terms of this EULA by installing, copying, or otherwise using the software. If you do not agree, do not install, copy, or use the software; you may return it to your place of purchase for a full refund, if applicable."

The language in the version that Mitchell received was slightly different. It read, "If you do not agree to the terms of this EULA, you may not use or copy the software, and should promptly contact manufacturer for instructions on return of the unused product(s) for a refund in accordance with manufacturer's return policies."

Mitchell ordered his Dell laptop on Oct. 21, and it arrived on Oct. 27. He sent a postal letter requesting a refund to Dell's Bracknell, UK office on Nov. 1, received a phone call two days later, and his refund today, he says.

Dell has not yet requested that Mitchell return his Microsoft hologram sticker or any other materials bundled with the system. The laptop did not come with a Windows CD.

Mitchell was careful to document that he did not run the Microsoft product or accept the EULA. "I booted the laptop, then photographed every step of the boot process up to and including clicking on the XP 'no I don't accept' button. I also scrolled through each page of the EULA, taking a photo of each page," he wrote in an e-mail interview.

When Dell issued a refund for the copy of Microsoft Windows bundled on a customer's laptop, it was neither a mistake nor a new policy, according to Dell spokesperson Anne Camden.

"It appears this was a unique response for a customer based on the individual circumstances of the customer's experience and request," she wrote.

"Dell does not have an official program that accommodates the return of the operating system. In general a customer would return the PC if unhappy with any pre-installed software end-user license agreement (EULA), including the operating system."

Linux user Dave Mitchell, who never booted Windows on his Dell Inspiron 640m laptop, and never accepted the end user license agreement (EULA), received a credit note for his refund, which was listed as "goodwill - approved by other", he says.

Mitchell requested his refund by postal mail on Nov. 1 and received it Tuesday. A copy of his letter is on the LinuxWorld Community site.

Previous seekers of Windows refunds have run into company policies that absolutely forbade a credit for the bundled operating system by itself. Refunds for just the operating system, although apparently allowed by the EULA, have been rare.

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