Amazon mislead customers over Vista OEM upgrade

Online shopping giant Amazon has admitted that it may have misled consumers into buying OEM versions of Windows XP with free upgrades to Vista, which they aren't entitled to.

Last week, IT PRO's sister publication PC Pro revealed how angry PC owners are turning on Microsoft after their upgrade vouchers for Windows Vista were deemed ineligible. Customers who bought OEM versions of Windows XP, complete with an upgrade voucher for Vista, are being told they don't qualify for the upgrade unless the operating system was installed on a brand new machine by a system builder.

Microsoft claims the OEM versions should only be sold to system builders and not the general public, but online retailers such as Amazon have been making the OEM software freely available to consumers.

PC Pro reader Iain Whittington is one such Amazon customer, and was dismayed to find that he didn't qualify for the free Vista upgrade. When he complained to Amazon that the company's product pages failed to warn him of the restrictions on OEM software he received the following reply from customer services:

"It is true that the information displayed on our website is insufficient and we are currently working on including a warning on the listing for this item. Please do accept our apologies for this misunderstanding.'"

Yet, when PC Pro asked Amazon why it was selling OEM software to consumers last week, it told us: "OEM software is not intended for purchase or installation by consumers. This is made clear on our site and we have an OEM section - - stating that OEM software is intended for system builders and small OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) who manufacture computer systems and preinstall OEM system builder software onto those systems. Its use is subject to the OEM System Builder License Agreement that is affixed to the side of all OEM system builder software packs.

When we asked why the company didn't issue this warning on product pages - which customers are sent straight to if they search for Windows XP on the site's search engine - Amazon failed to return our calls.

Clearly, the company has had a change of heart with its apology to Mr Whittington.

Have you had any difficulty upgrading to Vista? Let us know by adding your thoughts on our forum here.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.