France - Bundled sales of computers with software: when will there be action?
Paris, Thursday 22 September 2011, press release.
On Thursday, September 22 nd of 2011, at the Open World Forum, Éric Besson —the French Minister for Industry, Energy, and Digital Economy— gave a speech on the complementary role of free and proprietary software, on the economic potential of Free Software, and on the strategic importance of Free Software as sustained by the government. April calls upon the Minister to follow up on these statements with concrete actions, and to assume responsibility for them within the framework of the Consumer Bill.
The desire is for the establishment of a fair competition between Free Software and proprietary software, but the Minister forgot to mention that, even today, unfair competitive practices are penalising Free Software. This is frequently true, for instance, in public IT calls for tender which may cite specific brands or proprietary technologies.1
This is true also in the context of computer/software bundling, which conditions the sale of mass-market computers to the purchase of software. Bundling restricts consumer's choice and limits competition because it prevents consumers from freely choosing the software which is best suited to their needs. Yet, uncoupling of sales was one of Éric Besson's commitments under the Plan France Numérique 2012 (2012 Program for a Digital France) which are still unfullfilled at program's conclusion2, as pointed out by April, incidentally, in February 20113, and demonstrated in the overview(FR) which April published on Wednesday 21 September 2011 on the subject.
“Éric Besson announces a new Plan France Numérique 2020 without having fulfilled his most important commitments to Free Software under the former program”, says Jeanne Tadeusz, April's Public Affairs Officer. Yet, forbidding bundled sales was a 2008 promise, and numerous court rulings stress the importance of acting on this matter.”
“Yet the consumer protection bill which is currently under discussion at the National Assembly offers the Government an ideal opportunity to act in favour of competition and consumer's free choice, by implementing the uncoupling of sales,” adds Frédéric Couchet, April's Executive Director. “This issue has been discussed within the Committee on Economic Affairs already, and all it needs is a small degree of political will.
A Pioneer of Free Software in France since 1996, April is a major player in the democratisation of Free Software and open standards, and in their spread to the general public, professionals, and institutions of the French-speaking world. In the digital era that is ours, it also aims to inform the public on the dangers of an exclusive appropriation of information and knowledge by private interests.
The organisation is a non-profit and it has over 4,000 members, who use or produce Free Software.
- 1. For more information, please read April's dossier on IT public procurement (FR).
- 2. Specifically Actions 64 and 65 of the Plan France Numérique 2012: “Action 64: Promote the separate display of prices for software and pre-installed operating systems” and “Action 65: Make the uncoupled sales of a computer and its operating system possible. Bring together the retailers, the consumer organisations, and the software developers and vendors into a working group in charge of setting up a test starting in the first quarter of 2009”.
- 3. For more information, you may read April's news : “ Bundled sale of computers with their operating system: an improvement, really?” (FR).