Microsoft released the latest version of its ubiquitous operating system, Windows 10, in July 2015.
For a year following its release, Microsoft offered all Windows users a free upgrade to the new operating system.
The company aggressively marketed its new product by inserting advertising pop-ups for Windows 10 into users’ security updates to their prior operating system.
After installing a system update, a Windows popup box appeared on users’ screens several times a day offering them a free upgrade to Windows 10.
PC users say the ads were difficult to uninstall, even for a savvy computer user, and offered no option to refuse an upgrade or block future ads. In some cases, users reported that Windows 10 installed itself without their approval, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Chicago federal court.
Further, once users installed Windows 10, there was no way for a user to reverse the process and go back to their prior operating system.
“Allegedly the Windows 10 installer genie checks the consumer’s computer for compatibility; it does not, however, check the condition of the PC and whether or not the hard drive can withstand the stress of the Windows 10 installation,” or whether a user’s third-party software is compatible with the new system, according to the complaint.
Lead plaintiff Stephanie Watson says her hard drive failed after Windows 10 installed without her express approval, and she had to buy a new computer. Co-plaintiff Robert Saiger elected to upgrade his computer but his existing applications ceased working after the installation, the complaint states.
A third plaintiff, Howard Goldberg, says he upgraded his system after clicking “no” to daily popup ads on his computer for six months.
“After three attempts to download Windows 10, each of which tied up his computer for extended periods of time, Goldberg’s computer was damaged, and Windows 10 was not actually downloaded and functional,” the lawsuit states. Goldberg claims he had to pay Microsoft to make his computer work again.
Windows 10 is now running on about 400 million devices.
Thursday’s lawsuit seeks punitive damages for all Illinois residents who suffered loss of data or damage to their computer within 30 days of a Windows 10 upgrade. It asserts claims for breach of warranty, product liability, negligence, and consumer fraud.
The proposed class is represented by Daniel Edelman with Edelman, Combs, Latturner & Goodwin in Chicago.
In response to the lawsuit, a Microsoft spokesperson said, “The Windows 10 free upgrade program was a choice designed to help people take advantage of the most secure, and most productive Windows. Customers had the option not to upgrade to Windows 10. If a customer who upgraded during the one year program needed help with the upgrade experience, we had numerous options including free customer support and 31-days to roll back to their old operating system. We believe the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit.”