EU court: sale of computer with pre-installed software is not unfair

The European Court of Justice has ruled that selling a computer with preinstalled software is not unfair or misleading. The judge ruled this in response to a case that was filed against Sony in 2008.

The European judge writes, in addition to the fact that such a practice is not unfair to consumers, that the sale of such computers does not violate the ‘requirements of professional care’ that sellers must observe. The judge also takes into account that the sale of a computer, including software, meets the expectations of most consumers. However, it is for the various national courts to assess each case individually.

In doing so, the Court answers the question of a French judge, who asked whether it is unfair to sell a computer with software already present, if there is no possibility for the consumer to buy the same model without the software. According to the Court of Appeal, it can also be taken into account whether the consumer was informed in advance about the presence of the software. This is necessary so that a consumer can make an informed decision.

With a second question, the French judge wanted to know whether offering a computer with pre-installed software is misleading, in the event that the price of each program present is not mentioned. The Court says that this is not misleading, because the individual prices of the software are not ‘essential information’ when purchasing a computer. As a result, the consumer does not miss the opportunity to make an informed decision.

The underlying case, in which the French judge asked the questions, was brought in 2008 by Vincent Deroo-Blanquart. He had bought a Sony system with Windows Vista Home Premium on it. However, the Frenchman did not agree to the operating system’s terms of use and wanted to reclaim the value of the pre-installed operating system from Sony. The Japanese company refused and offered to undo the transaction entirely. After that, the man filed a complaint against Sony, which resulted in the current ruling.