MS ANTITRUST: Microsoft settles with North Carolina

Microsoft Corp. has agreed to pay as much as US$89 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in North Carolina that alleged the vendor overcharged for its software.

Under the settlement, North Carolina residents who bought Microsoft Windows, Office or standalone Word or Excel products between Dec. 9, 1995, and Dec. 31, 2002, can apply for vouchers that may be used to buy desktop or notebook computers, software or select peripherals from any manufacturer, Microsoft said in a statement Thursday.

The maximum value of the vouchers issued will total about US$89 million, Microsoft said. One-half of any unclaimed vouchers will be donated to North Carolina schools, the Redmond, Wash., vendor said.

Last Tuesday, Microsoft announced settlements with several U.S. states. That announcement included North Carolina, but the settlement had not yet been approved. It received preliminary approval from the North Carolina Business Court last Thursday, Microsoft said.

Class-action lawsuits remain in Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin. Suits in 17 other states have been dismissed or had class action certification denied. Thirteen of these dismissals are final, Microsoft said last week.

The settlements announced last week have a total value of about US$200 million and bring the total number of states that have settled to 10. The total cost to Microsoft of all 10 class-action lawsuits it has settled is about US$1.55 billion, including a US$1.1 billion settlement of a California lawsuit in January.

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