back to article UK reseller sues Microsoft for £270m in damages claiming prohibitive contracts choke off surplus Office licence supplies

Microsoft is being sued by UK reseller ValueLicensing for £270m in damages over claims of restrictive contractual practices and abuse of dominance. The claim, filed in the UK's High Court in London, asserts that Microsoft stifled the supply of preowned Microsoft licences in the UK and EEA and added clauses into contracts that …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Somehow I can't work up much sympathy about someone not being able to make enough money out of selling Office licences.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I can, but more in someone being a nuisance to an organisation that deserves every nuisance going.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Adobe has been doing the same thing with licenses, deactivating their authorizations whenever they feel like doing so and telling you that you bought your package "from an unauthorized reseller". It is trying to force you into their subscription model.

      I bought the package legit and did not use it beyond the license agreement (2 users).

      I almost never, ever crack...but Adobe forced my hand, as I told them to "Stuff off" with 10m neon sign.

      Anon, of course.

      1. razorfishsl

        Re: Sympathy?

        They do the same with fonts....

        recently we found old documents had huge sections of empty areas....

        so our old pdf/ stored document archive is basically useless...

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Sympathy?

          How does that work? I thought PDF embedded fonts to ensure correct rendering? Does Adobe Reader check the fonts in the document against the creator's current licences, online, every time you open a document? Sounds like cause to find another reader.

          I would imagine the document is recoverable either way - the actual text will still be there, all you'd need to do is substitute the font used to render it. Might have a few layout iasues I suppose...


    3. Dave 15

      I don't want my stuff on the cloud for the NSA to inspect.

      Yes we all know what the rules are supposed to be but we all know they are flouted i also want to be able to work when I don't have an internet connection etc. I don't even want a licence, I want to own a copy of the software to do with what i want whether that is to alter it or use it until i slide from the mortal coil.... And maybe if my hackery was good to pass it to my offspring. I don't see what advantage the clod gives me but i can see many disadvantages. I also don't see the advantage in paying per year compared to once. I don't use microshite at home now for reasons such as this, they are destroying the company bad decision by bad decision

  2. MiguelC Silver badge

    Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

    Definition of perpetual

    a : continuing forever : everlasting perpetual motion

    b (1) : valid for all time a perpetual right

    (2) : holding something (such as an office) for life or for an unlimited time

    1. johnfbw

      Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

      Devils advocate here. Perpetual for the life of the machine was their usual claim in the olden days.

      Now machines last a lot longer and people aren't upgrading every 12 months

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

        "Now machines last a lot longer"

        My Commodore 64 begs to differ. All original apart from a few caps ... and a USB interface etc.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

          I think you know what he meant. ;) 20 years ago hardware performance was explosive; in 2000 a 5 year old computer would have been (if you bought the bleeding edge hardware) a 486dxSomething with a MHz count in double digits and the 2k PC would probably have been an AMD Thunderbird with a performance that'd just gone through the Ghz barrier.

          The next upgrade cycle from 2000 to 2005 the upgrade would have been from a ~1 Ghz single core box to a duel core Athlon x2 running at ~3Ghz (or a single core P4 that could double as central heating running at 3Ghz if you were intel inclined, which few techs at the time were...)

          While performance has increased in the last 16 years, it's entirely possible to run modern applications on 10-15 year old hardware; I have > decade old kit floating around at work which were redeployed from the scrap pile during the pandemic due to a sudden need for hardware for home use combined with suppliers not having any kit at affordable prices. Redeploying decade old hardware in 2000-2005 would have been completely impossible.

        2. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

          A Commodore 64 was completely obsolete 10 years after launch.

          A computer from 2011 that was high-spec at time of launch can still run the latest versions of most software other than games at useable speed.

      2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Life of the machine

        Go back a little further and the licence was for one machine at a time and the only limit on that was finding something compatible in working order (or later on, an emulator). Support was often "only thing that will be fixed is defective installation media" and the only remedy available for any problem (including burning your office to the ground) was replacement installation media. The warranty was "it will work broadly in line with the printed documentation" and the printed documentation was a small card with installation instructions. Any other form of support required money.

        I have no problem with Microsoft saying the license for the software you have lasts forever but there will be no updates. They wrote the code, they choose the licence. On the other hand, my "no source code, no sale" policy means I dealt with this problem when it first reared its ugly head last millennium.

        Always read the EULA (unless it is over 20 pages long in which case there is no point as you have already found proof that the offer is a scam).

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

        "Perpetual for the life of the machine was their usual claim in the olden days."

        IOW they didn't mean perpetual.

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

          Perpetual by a Mayfly's span.

          "If it lasts as long as the next 12 generations of my seed, it can't be bad.." quoth the fly.

    2. Ochib

      Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

      Isn't that the same as "Unlimited broadband (Subject to Fair Use Policy)". Either something is unlimited or it isn't

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Unlimited broadband

        Not quite. Unlimited broadband is actually exists but comes with an unlimited monthly bill.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Unlimited broadband

          Wasn't there once a BT product broadband described as "Infinity", but which was actually only up to 8x faster?

          It seems to me that if "infinity" is only eight, then "unlimited" is probably only four, or perhaps six at best :-)

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Whats in a name?

            Wasn't there once a BT product broadband described as "Infinity"

            Yup. In my occasional forrays into marketing, I was warned against using names like that. So worked for a company (BRT) that had the 'Very High Speed Data Loop' where very high meant it it was running at less than Infinity speeds. It's kinda like Tesla's 'Gigafactories'. Keeping that naming convention, then next size upgrade would be Terafactory. Scarey thought. Or perhaps Petafactory, which could lead to increased complaints about inappropriate behaviour from staff or visitors.

    3. Jon 37

      Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

      It was a *perpetual licence* but not an entitlement to *perpetual support*.

      No software vendor can keep providing free patches for their old software forever. The cost of providing future patches for a period of time is included in the purchase price. So *some* limit is reasonable.

      Though I'd argue that bug fixes should be provided for 6 years from date of purchase, at least in the UK. Physical goods that were defective when sold have to be fixed if the purchaser notices the fault within 6 years of purchase (Consumer Rights Act 2015). I think the same should apply to software. Sadly, no software vendor provides patches for that long.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

        I think 6 years is way too short.

        e.g. I have an old iMac, and due to hardware limitations it could not be upgraded to newer version of OSX so it was stuck on Snow Leopard and Apple, in their typical style, did not bother keeping it security patched for long.

        So rather than bin a perfectly good machine (or use it without internet access) I installed Linux on it, and its is still running happily. Low spec but it does the job for undemanding usage such as a bit of email, web browsing, video / music playing, word processing etc.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

          My Mid-2010 MacBook Pro got security updates for just over 10 years until they dropped support for High Sierra. I Hackintoshed Mojave on to it, so it is still getting updated that way.

          The iPhone 5S (late 2013) is still getting security updates. Apple are a lot better than just about everyone else in that department.

          1. hoola Silver badge

            Re: "Earlier this year it slashed the length of support perpetual licence holders could expect."

            I agree that the OS support from Apple in terms of security updates is better. The far bigger issue is whether the Apps are supported on the older versions of the OS.

            This came to light when I was assisting a friend who needed to get their Mother some basic connectivity on a tablet.

            I have had very little to do with Apple but believed stuff about "longevity". Now this all when pear shaped when the old iPad could not be updated beyond a certain version of iOS. The apps they wanted to used could not be installed because the version of iOS was too old.

            There is much to this than just having security patches.

  3. Binraider Silver badge

    Is it just me that thinks that resellers are a dying breed, and somewhat redundant in fact? Why go to a computer shop with limited choices, more overheads and higher prices when you can go direct?

    This isn't limited to computing. I'd buy an album direct off a musician in preference to off some tax dodging mega retailer too. Or food from a farm shop over a supermarket.

    Strange times.

    1. Dave 15

      Food from the farmer

      Pity is that farmers themselves don't listen. In Germany many dairy farms have milk machines, you turn up at any time you like, bring a bottle or buy one, fill it withi milk. Money goes into the machine and straight to the farmer. He gets more and the consumer pays less.the only ones to lose are supermarkets

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Food from the farmer

        It's more than the supermarket: in order to sell milk direct the farmer had to invest in pasteurized equipment. Farmers sell to the processors who pasteurize, bottle and ship it to retail stores. The collective of farmers who sell to the processor so not have to purchase all the equipment that way, or conversely the collective co-op owns the equipment themselves and spreads the costs out across the membership.

        The equipment is not cheap, so that German farmer is in it for quite a penny to do direct sales.

  4. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I am still surprised that MS has no real competition in the Office suite software space. I know Libreoffice and Openoffice exist as I use Linux Mint as my daily driver and LO Calc is open on my desktop as i write this. But despite them being mature products OO & LO Microsoft office compatibility is still hit and miss and opening documents created in MS Office can often result in formatting errors, something that then makes them unsuitable for deploying in an environment where people are expected to be able to open and save in MS Office file formats.

    There is definitely a gap in the market for someone to develop a almost drop in replacement for MS Office with good compatibility in opening/Saving Word, Excel and Powerpoint docs, but without the Office365 subscription model. Preferably including an alternative replacement to Outlook as this is something that is missing from Open/Libreoffice suite.

    1. The First Dave

      Don't you think that that is what LO and OO are aiming for?

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Which is an excellent idea.

      With only 2 tiny tiny flaws

      M$ regularly change the format of the files every so slightly every so often , and

      M$ regularly change the format of the files every so slightly every so often

      Now ok I know this is only 1 flaw.. but its such a big one its worth typing twice.

      Once your 'office beater' goes on sale and starts raking in the money, m$ have their saas thing update all the online copies of office to put out a different file format which screws your 'office beater' into the ground.

      After all... I have 20 yr old office files from my days at university and have to use libre office to open them because the current version of m$ cant!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As an example of M$'s deliberate incompatibility:

        When I first started using OpenOffice, I tried opening an OOCalc file in Excel. The formulas were all gone! Hmm. But oddly, I could create or open, edit, and save Excel files in OOCalc just fine, including then opening them in Excel.

        From what I can tell, M$ deliberately crippled the ability of Excel to use OOCalc files, when there was no technical reason why they would be incompatible.

        (Haven't retried this in years; if it's not for my personal use, I just save it as an Excel file in OOCalc.)

    3. razorfishsl

      There is a complete "rip off" made by a Chinese software company called kingsoft

      problem is...... you are replacing MS with perhaps a worse vendor...

    4. PM from Hell

      Enterprise application compatibility

      MS office will continue to hold the customer base until a 3rd party can gain enough traction with enterprise application providers (SAP, ORACLE, Salesforce etc) that they will support its file formats and API's as well as Microsofts.

      That includes supposedly open standards like RTF. The use of import from and export to Microsoft products is almost universal and 'just works' I've managed a couple of projects in environments where Google Apps or Libre Office were intended to replace MS Office but in all the environments office licenses were still required. Whilst there were cashable savings on overall licence costs the additional costs of converting to and from MSoffice then sorting out irritating formatting issues probably outweighed those. When you are mailing millions of people with output produced initially from your desktop productivity software you need to be 100% sure that WYSIWYG really is true.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Enterprise application compatibility

        But RTF was never really open. It's a proprietary standard, if a bit less obscured than the main .doc format. The UK government has some excellent guidelines for open and accessible documents and Microsoft's proprietary formats are discouraged. (Sorry, mobile, can't look it up now)

        Of course, once ODF became a thing, MS touted .docx as the same, but it ain't, and even public bodies in the UK still use MS formats far too often.

        Because of its near monopoly status people bend over backwards to support Office and its proprietary formats but even to an outsider (I am merely a user) it seems to be a constant game of catch-up. That said, I do still find that Libre Office often makes a better effort at opening older MS documents than newer versions of MS products.


    5. Binraider Silver badge

      There's no question that MS has engaged in anticompetitive practises with regards file compatibility to push general office programs from Lotus, Corel and others out. Armies of lawyers on standby to defend. But ultimately, MS Office now ends up on most systems, because of Outlook, it's Calendar functionality, and the Active Directory being considered near de-facto requirements.

      AD is popular with businesses because of the concept of centralised administration for thousands of users. Unixland it's obviously possible, but not really standardised or wysiwigged to the point where you can give the config tools to a monkey to drive (and still get it wrong, but that's a different point).

      In my experience the compatibility breaks between spreadsheets opened on different systems come when you start doing graphical stuff; stuff that can't really be standardised implementations. Or anything involving macros, obviously. The latter capability is, regrettably, rather useful in Excel, for all of my preference for Open systems in just about every other case.

      There are plenty of fringe, specialised tools with advantages and disadvantages e.g. SPSS is pretty good at cobbling up statistics from datasets. Excel can do it, but requires more effort to achieve what it SPSS considers a standard outputs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Having done my best to avoid Windoze, I'm now working for an employer (hence posting as anon) where "MS everything, and evergreen*" is the IT landscape. It's 'kin horrible - and I've not been "upgraded" to Windoze 10 yet. It wouldn't be too bad if MS could even attempt to have some consistency within it's own core office applications regarding things like keyboard shortcuts - but they don't. The whole setup is a mish-mash of inconsistent UIs, and general "WTF" user unfriendliness - just don't get me started on that utter shite called Teams.

        BUT all these disparate bits, built by (or bought in from) different teams, generally hang together sort of seamlessly. One user account**, and all the office applications, Outlook, Sharepoint, Skype, Teams all use the same account details and permissions model***. From the admin PoV it's a nice model which AFAIK cannot be matched with anything else.

        And of course, they've sewn everything together nicely with proprietary protocols and secret keys so that it's difficult (or even impossible ?) for anyone else to tie into the system in the same seamless manner. So taking the basics - [Open|Libre]Office simply cannot compete with Word & Excel in terms of integration with the rest of the system.

        I suspect that some of it could be hacked together with an interface into the hairball that is Active Directory, but not all that much. And until you can match that, then you have a very big uphill battle trying to replace a Windoze & O360**** setup.

        * Evergreen seems to me to be an agreement where MS does what it likes (probably for a worse user experience), and you install it without question.

        ** Pity we have to use so many third party web apps that all have their own user models, usually with completely different rules on user ids and password acceptability.

        *** In theory. Map a Sharepoint folder to a Windoze drive so you can access files with the (relatively) fast File manager application instead of the pitifully crap and slow Sharepoint UI, set a file to "read only" in File Manager, and ... it's completely ignored by Sharepoint ! So they couldn't even be arsed to map a simple thing like that.

        **** Office 360 seems to be about all they can manage - definitely nothing remotely close to 365 days availability (at least, not in a single year).

  5. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Whiff of hypocrisy here ?

    If MS were NOT the dominant supplier of Operating Systems and Office software, then this outfit would have no business at all.

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