The Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) has ended the concept of the Microsoft tax which was a commercial practice that discourages users from converting their PCs to GNU/Linux or other free operating systems by forcing them to pay for a Windows license with their PCs.
PC producers in Italy now cannot refuse to refund the price of the license to purchasers that will not run Windows.
It has taken a long time to get such a ruling. Marco Pieraccioli began his quest to end the Microsoft Tax in 2005 with the support of the Consumer Association ADUC.
Most GNU/Linux distributions are offered to the public gratis, while Windows is not. Therefore, switching to GNU/Linux offers an opportunity for the secondary benefit of saving money.
The ruling applies to more than just Windows. The Court states a general principle that applies to any device with software preinstalled.
“Anyone who buys a computer on which a given operational software (operating system) was preinstalled by the manufacturer has the right, if he does not agree to the conditions of the license of the software made available to him at first start of the computer, to retain the computer returning only the software covered by the license he did not accept, with refund of the part of the price that specifically relates to it,” the ruling says.
According to the Supreme Court, any commercial practice that prevents the user from getting a refund "..would clash in different ways with the rules that protect the freedom of choice of the consumer, and the freedom of competition among firms..."