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Customer wins $10K judgment from Microsoft over unauthorized Windows 10 upgrade

Gregg Keizer | June 28, 2016
Took company to small claims court after upgrade crippled her PC, hurt her business

By mid-January, Goldstein had had enough. "That was when they offered me $150 to go away," she said today. "I used that as proof of guilt. They knew what was happening."

From there, Goldstein went to Marin County's small claims court, filing a claim for the maximum of $10,000.

In March, her claim was heard. Goldstein came prepared with documentation, including years of her firm's revenue to show the losses caused by the lack of a working PC. Microsoft, on the other hand, sent someone from the local retail store, not an attorney.

"This very honest kid came in, and said they had pulled him out of the store at 4:30 to go to court," said Goldstein. "They didn't even prepare for it."

Basing her claim on a section in the California Uniform Commercial Code, and arguing that the forced upgrade was non-consensual and resulted in lost wages, Goldstein was awarded the $10,000 judgment. Microsoft originally said it would appeal, but then ditched the idea and paid her the $10,000 last month.

"The company dropped its appeal to avoid the expense of further litigation," a Microsoft spokesman said in an email reply to questions today.

Goldstein's story likely resonates with many of the Windows users who, over the last 11 months, have objected to a variety of Microsoft tactics designed to convince, cajole or even trick customers running Windows 7 and 8.1 into upgrading to Windows 10.

Microsoft's upgrade strategy, which began months before the July 29, 2015, launch of the new operating system, became increasingly aggressive. After first asking customers to "reserve" a copy of the upgrade, it moved on to downloading the upgrade bits in the background to those users' machines. In October 2015, Microsoft announced it would automatically push the Windows 10 upgrade to all eligible PCs, then initiate the upgrade process. That practice began in February.

More recently, the firm started pre-scheduling the upgrade, a change that dramatically increased the number of complaints, and triggered a petition asking the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to investigate the unprecedented gambit.

Users were especially irate about a change Microsoft made in March when it began to interpret a click on the red "X" in the upper right of an impending upgrade notice as approving the upgrade, contradicting decades of user experience (UX), as well as Microsoft's own design rules. Customers called it a trick to get them to approve the upgrade to Windows 10 when they intended to reject it.

Goldstein had advice for others in similar straits.

"Corporations need to be held accountable," she said. "My business was destroyed by a company pushing its products. You have to take the bull by the horns because as long as Microsoft can get away with this, they will."

 

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