How to get a refund for Windows in Poland?

[ Saturday, 30 August 2008, piotrek86 ]

Reading the Slashdot article about Dave Mitchell from Great Britain, who got a 47 pounds refund from Dell for returning his copy of Windows was an inspiration for me to check, if it is possible in Poland, too. This is my success story.

I am a 3rd year’s student of Information Technologies at the University of Lodz. In September 2007 I’ve purchased the Lenovo ThinkPad R61i laptop from “Poltronics” company in Lodz, for 3355 PLN. From the very beginning I’ve been informing the seller, that I won’t be using Windows, because it is Linux I work on. In return, I was told, that they cannot sell me the laptop without the Windows OS pre-installed. At that point in time, Lenovo didn’t offer the ThinkPads with Linux, as they are now (with SLED) on the (more expensive) ThinkPads T-series.

I came to an idea to return the Windows OS. I read and didn’t accept the EULA, documenting the whole process, and emailed Microsoft to make it all clear. Microsoft has acknowledged that I am entitled to a refund. Subsequently, I sent an email to Lenovo, quoting the Microsoft’s reply. Their – Lenovo – reply was, that they don’t accept claims like that, that they do offer hardware with no Windows, and that they do not force anybody to use any software, and also that I knew what software I will get upon purchase.

I didn’t like their reply, because the user has no opportunity to read the licence before purchasing, it is even hard to find on the Internet.

My reply for this was, that I tried to buy the ThinkPad with no Windows installed, and that I even been contacting the Lenovo production manager about this, but even he couldn’t tell me where I can purchase a ThinkPad with DOS. I also added,that the user has the right to choose the software upon reading the EULA. Lenovo themselves are not mentioning it on their website, misleading customers.

I came to the idea of involving the Consumers Rights Office. Their reply was, that as the retailer, “Poltronics”, whose name is printed on the invoice, it is them, who should I get into contact with. I didn’t want to involve “Poltronics”, because I know, that they only can sell what they get, having no influence on configuration whatsoever. What I rather wanted, was the clear statement from Lenovo, that the customers do have that choice. But I did contact “Poltronics” eventually. With negative reply again.

In the meantime, I contacted Microsoft once again, with a (supposedly) tricky question, if the breach of the OEM Manufacturers License (especially the point where the manufacturer is required to comply with the EULA) by Lenovo, does invalidate their agreement and thus renders all the software they’re selling – illegal. My letter was subject to analyse by Microsoft’s lawyers for over 6 weeks, and I bet they had some trouble with it. Although in the end they replied to me, that they will clarify this between themselves and Lenovo. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. To my subsequent emails they replied, that they do not get involved into affairs between the customer and Lenovo.

The Consumers Rights Office has advised me to contact the Office of Trading Inspectors. This is one fine institution, that resolves the clashes between the consumer and the retailer. There is only one “but” – accession into the mediation is voluntary. In my letter to Trading Inspectors, I mentioned that I don’t know, which company owes the refund actually, but I think, that “Poltronics” should give me my money back, and apply to Lenovo for their own refund. It seemed reasonable that way, because it was in sync with the law and the license, and it did not involve contacting and proving the purchase to the manufacturer.

Finally, it worked! The Trading Inspectors after over-the-phone mediation has convinced “Poltronics” that I’m right. The retailer has issued me a refund for 400 PLN (as I have mentioned in the documents – the actual price of Windows XP Professional at the time of purchasing the laptop. Myself, I returned the licensing sticker, and to show my good will, deleted the Windows files while being logged on to Linux (they didn’t actually force me to do this, but I wanted to show, that the consumers are interested in Linux on laptops). All the process took 10 months, some noticeable amount of photocopying, 52 emails and a few postage stamps, but turned out to be satisfactory :)

Summarizing, I give you a few useful tips for these, who decide to return the Microsoft Windows for a refund:

  • It is rather not useful to phone the manufacturer, the retailer or Microsoft – would cost you money and nerves – write emails rather.
  • You might shoot a photo documentation of declining the license, but that is not required.
  • The most important letters to the manufacturer or the retailer are best to be sent with Recorded Delivery, return receipt is recommended too.
  • If the licensing sticker is made of paper, it could be damaged very quickly (I recommend to photocopy it and not keep the laptop on your knees in the mean time).
  • If you’re asked to return the licensing sticker, do not rip it off yourself (it is protected) – let the retailer do it.
  • The Office of Fair Trading and Consumer Protection isn’t going to help much.
  • Have patience, more patience and lots of patience :)

Useful links :

Similar cases in other countries :

Update :

Due to the high temperature of discusion I want to make a few things clear:

  • I did try to buy a ThinkPad with no pre-installed Windows. Lenovo is advertising them on their website, one is however unable to buy or order these. If there was a possibility, there wouldn’t be all this fuss about refund.
  • I do not know what’s the price of Windows OEM. The price mentioned comes from an on-line shop, is for the not-OEM version, dated the day I purchased the laptop. The retailer could have other price displayed, but he didn’t do that.
  • My goal wasn’t to punish the retailer, but rather to exercise the abiding to the license by Lenovo, and how is the refund process set. In their German branch this is an easy, normal and fast process. I don’t understand, why it cannot be that way in Poland. I wanted Lenovo to inform about their refunds policy on their website, before, not after the purchase.
  • I haven’t changed my mind on Lenovo laptops. I still do believe they are very good and I wouldn’t buy another brand.
  • “Poltronics” didn’t reply to my claim for two months, thus blocking my claim proceeding from Lenovo. I called “Poltronics” a few times asking for reply, to no avail. What helped in the end, was to remind them on retailers’ code, according to which, a “no reply” within 14 days is regarded as positive reply to a claim, but even then, their reply was negative. I didn’t witness the mediation between Trade Inspectors and “Poltronics”. According to “Poltronics”, the overdue reply to the claim was the main reason for refund.
  • Lenovo reply to my claim for refund:

    Warsaw, 10 October 2007

    In reply to your letter claiming refund for the unused Windows XP Professional license, bundled to the purchased Lenovo notebook computer, we regret to inform, that our company does not consider such a procedure.

    Also we wish to inform, that Lenovo does offer its hardware either bundled with Microsoft software or DOS only, thus enabling our customers to choose software that suits their needs.

    Upon purchase, the notebook’s specification was known to you, and also you knew what kind of software is unbreakably bundled to the product number. Of course, we do not force our customers to use any software, but we do not consider to lower the bundled product’s price just according to our Customers preferences.


    Marek Borówka
    General Director

    Lenovo Technology B.V. Sp. z o.o.

    Polish Branch

Translated-by : el es

PS. The story was first published in Polish on Zwrot pieniędzy za Windows — jak to zrobić w Polsce?. Since then, another similar article appeared on the net: Reimbursed User for MS Windows License from Lenovo ČR describing the less successful story with getting a Windows refund from Lenovo in Czech Republic.

About the Author

Piotr Karczemski

Computer science student on University of Łódź and a GNU/Linux user.

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