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Microsoft settles Minnesota lawsuit

Microsoft will pay up to $241.4 million in vouchers and fees to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by Minnesota computer users who claimed they were overcharged.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Microsoft Corp. will pay up to $241.4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by Minnesota computer users who claimed the software company overcharged them.

The settlement outlined in court for the first time on Thursday includes $174.5 million in computer equipment vouchers for consumers and caps attorneys fees at $59.4 million.

It also earmarks $2.5 million in cash for the Minnesota Legal Aid Society, and $2.5 million in cash and another $2.5 million in vouchers for the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology.

The final attorney's fees will have to be approved by Hennepin County District Court Judge Bruce Peterson, who preliminarily approved the rest of the settlement on Thursday.

Microsoft admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement.

"It's a great settlement. We did some good here," said plaintiff's attorney Daniel Hume. The plaintiffs have claimed that at least one million Minnesota consumers and businesses will be eligible for the settlement.

Consumers will be notified as early as Tuesday that they will qualify for vouchers to buy computer equipment. Unused settlement money will go to the state education department to be distributed to individual school districts for technology programs.

The Minnesota lawsuit alleged that Microsoft had violated state antitrust law by overcharging for its Windows operating system and its Excel and Word programs. The company had denied overcharging, saying the prices on its products had dropped.

When the trial began in March it was the first state-level class action suit against Microsoft to go to trial. The trial ended when the settlement was announced in April.

The announcement Thursday caps a week in which Microsoft has put a number of other antitrust concerns behind them.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously approved Microsoft's landmark antitrust settlement with the Justice Department. And in the past week alone, the company has reached proposed settlements of class-action antitrust allegations in Massachusetts, North Dakota and Arizona. The company also has recently settled several private antitrust claims.