Settlement holdout West Virginia sues Microsoft

West Virginia's attorney general slapped Microsoft Corp. with yet another lawsuit Monday, alleging that the software maker violated the state's antitrust and consumer-protection laws, a representative for the state attorney general confirmed Tuesday.

West Virginia is one of the nine states that refused to join a settlement last month in the U.S. government's antitrust suit against Microsoft. The state claims that Microsoft used its monopoly power in the PC operating systems' market to set anticompetitive pricing policies, among other things.

State Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw Jr. filed suit against the software giant in the Circuit Court of Boone County Monday, calling for unspecified damages and sanctions against Microsoft on behalf of West Virginia consumers and state agencies.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said Tuesday that company attorneys had not yet reviewed the case yet, and therefore had no official comment on it.

"We believe that we have reached a fair and reasonable settlement with the Department of Justice, and we have believed all along that our customers receive great products at low prices," Desler added, however.

West Virginia's complaint, however, alleges that "Microsoft willfully and flagrantly maintained its monopoly power" by imposing anticompetitive pricing policies.

Many of the state's claims are based on a ruling made by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that Microsoft engaged in illegal monopoly behavior. Jackson made the ruling last year in the U.S. government's antitrust case against the software maker.

The complaint charges, for example, that Microsoft was able to overcharge state end users for its Windows 98 operating system because of its monopoly. Furthermore, the state alleges that Microsoft used its operating system dominance to give away its Internet Explorer browser to win the browser war over rival Netscape Communications Corp.

The suit also alleges that the software maker violated state consumer protection laws by engaging in "unfair or deceptive acts and practices" and "excluding competition or controlling, fixing or maintaining prices."

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