Thu, Feb 27, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Consumer group dismisses offer

MICROSOFT DISPUTE The Consumers' Foundation says the software giant's offer to the Fair Trade Commission to cut retail prices by up to 47 percent is not enough

By Kevin Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Consumers' Foundation (消基會), the nation's top consumer group, yesterday expressed dissatisfaction with a proposal by Microsoft to settle a pricing dispute by cutting up to 47 percent off its retail software prices in Taiwan.

"We want the company to lower its retail prices by 75 percent in Taiwan to show a sincere desire to resolve the dispute," foundation secretary-general Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏) said.

Cheng made the remarks in response to a local newspaper report that Microsoft may slash prices on some of its computer software products sold in Taiwan by 10 percent to 47 percent in a bid to reach an "administrative settlement" with the Cabinet-level Fair Trade Commission.

Under the terms of the Microsoft's settlement, the company may also agree to share some of the source code of its software with Taiwanese companies to help in their product development, the paper said.

The commission began to investigate Microsoft's trade practices after receiving complaints from consumers and some legislators in August last year that the company is manipulating its selling prices and marketing schemes in an effort to monopolize the market.

In late October the commission decided to allow Microsoft to seek an "administrative settlement" with the government body. It is scheduled to hold a meeting today to decide whether Microsoft's offer is acceptable.

"If Microsoft continues to force local customers to buy bundled products with some purchases and declines to cut its retail prices substantially, we may file a lawsuit against the company on behalf of consumers," Cheng said.

Microsoft's Office software dominates the domestic market. Its Office XP Professional software, which retails for NT$21,000, costs 13 percent more in Taiwan than in North America, Cheng said.

According to a recent foundation survey, around 86.4 percent of those polled said that Microsoft should provide consumers with the option of buying either the old or the new edition of its software products.

"For example, Office 2000 software is not available on the market," Cheng said. "The company shouldn't force consumers to upgrade their software just because it wants to."

About 88.8 percent of those surveyed were against having to buy bundled products with some purchases, the same survey said.

A lawsuit by the foundation may have legs to stand on.

"The consumer group can sue Microsoft over its alleged manipulation of pricing as long as 20 consumers entrust the foundation to do so," said Joseph Lin (林世華), an attorney at Hua Shin International Law Offices (華信聯合法律事務所).

Such a case would be the first international lawsuit against Microsoft by a private organization regarding the company's trade practices in Taiwan, Lin said.

Zoe Cherng (程文燕), a Microsoft Taiwan spokesman, refused to comment on the newspaper report.

Cherng did confirm that the company cancelled a press event yesterday to introduce Will Poole, senior vice president of the company's new media division. She declined to give further details.

This story has been viewed 2513 times.
TOP top