In aLuca Bonissi - image courtesy of FSFE historic judgment in Italy, Lenovo was ordered to pay €20,000 euros in damages for abusive behaviour for refusing to refund the price of a pre-installed Windows licence in a case initiated by Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) supporter Luca Bonissi, the FSFE reports.

A grateful Luca is donating €15,000 of the award to the FSFE.

It should go without saying that everyone should be able to freely choose the operating system to run on their personal computers.However, this freedom is regularly abused by hardware suppliers to such an extent that it is almost impossible to buy a new or used system without having to pay the so-called Windows tax for an unwanted OS. Some computer manufacturers still make it very hard for consumers, forcing them to assert their rights in expensive and exhausting lawsuits.

This is what happened to Luca Bonissi.

In March 2018, Luca bought a brand-new Lenovo Ideapad and decided he didn’t want to run Windows on it. He therefore contacted Lenovo to request a refund for the pre-installed Windows system.

This initiated a lengthy two-year bureaucratic and legal all because the company twice refused to refund the €42 Luca had been charged for the unwanted Windows system. After having his requests denied twice by Lenovo, Luca tried to seek help from the Italian Competition and Market Authority (AGCM). However, when he realised that these efforts were fruitless, Luca decided to take legal action against Lenovo.

He therefore initiated proceedings in a small claims court without legal assistance, but soon sought professional aid when Lenovo proved obstinate.

In June 2019, the Justice of the Peace of Monza upheld Luca’s right to reimbursement and ordered Lenovo to refund €42 for the Windows licence and also ordered the company to pay €130 in legal costs

However, Lenovo was dissatisfied with the verdict and appealed, citing 15 grounds for appeal, implicating Luca in further legal proceedings and yet more expense for legal advice.

Finally, in December 2020, the Court of First Instance in Monza rejected all Lenovo’s arguments, upholding the consumer’s right to a refund for the unused pre-installed operating system. The court noted that the manufacturer itself had expressly assumed this obligation in the Windows licence. Furthermore, in a historic decision, the court imposed punitive damages of €20,000 on Lenovo for abusing the appeal process.

Commenting on his victory in court Luca stated: “The Monza decision demonstrated that is possible to reverse the unacceptable behaviour of big techs. What was taken away from the Free Software community has now been returned to it. I encourage everyone to fight back for their legitimate rights!”