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12/27/2004
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Microsoft Antitrust Settlement Dollars Going Largely Unclaimed

California companies and consumers who purchased Microsoft's PC software may be leaving more than $1 billion on the table

California companies and consumers who purchased Microsoft PC software may be leaving more than $1 billion on the table as a deadline for filing in a California class action approaches.

The Settlement Recovery Center (SRC), which assists businesses and non-profits making claims in class actions, said less than one million claims out of a potential 14 million claims have been filed as of Monday in the California case. The deadline for filing is Jan. 8.

Attorneys in the class action led by San Francisco law firm Townsend & Townsend & Crew have been awarded $101 million in fees and $11.5 million in expenses. As things stand at the moment, the attorneys could make more money than the claimants in the class action.

"The California case is the first to expire," said SRC spokesman Craig Wolfson, noting that several states have won class action suits against Microsoft. "We have 600 or more clients in California representing over one million employees."

Many Californians and companies that purchased Microsoft software between 1995 and 2001 don't realize they can make claims in the class action, Wolfson said.

The California class action enables Microsoft users to obtain vouchers for Microsoft software in some cases, according to a complicated procedure for obtaining credit for Microsoft software and for purchased PCs with Microsoft software.

"It's a timing issue," said Wolfson, noting that there are different provisions for paying vouchers and monies according to different times when the Microsoft products were purchased. "And it's not just for software but it's also for computer gear."

"Companies don't understand what's at stake," said SRC founder and CEO Howard Yellen in a statement. "The Microsoft settlement is great, but it's not well understood. We have quite a few corporate clients who will recover over a million dollars each." Companies that upgraded Windows and Office software between 1995 an 2001 have the best chance of collecting, the SRC said, noting that 80 percent of the Microsoft settlement fees are scheduled to be awarded to companies.

Individuals don't have to provide documentation for much of their Microsoft purchases "they just need to fill out a simple form available on the Internet to claim up to five eligible purchases. For companies, the process is more complicated as they must file certain software licensing forms and other documentation.

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