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MS gives Californians $400 each to buy computers

Just go to Best Buy, sign up for MSN, then cancel...

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Microsoft is giving Californians a $400 gift to help them buy computers, according to the estimable San Jose Mercury. Of course, this isn't happening by design - it's just a strange coincidence of MSN incentivisation and Californian consumer law.

It works like this. When shopping at Best Buy and a few other stores, you sign up for a three year MSN contract and get your $400 discount voucher.

Elsewhere in the US (excepting Oregon) you have to give the $400 back if you cancel, but Californians, as we all know, are different. The $400 qualifies as "purchase credit," says the Mercury, which is covered by a California law which says you can't be forced to purchase anything in connection with taking out a loan. The law was put in place to stop consumers being forced to buy insurance when they bought a car or a house, but apparently it works for computer gear as well.

A nasty, unfortunate and unexpected accident for Microsoft? Well, possibly not. The printed terms and conditions for the offer in the US as a whole are different from those in California and Oregon, so it appears Microsoft'' legal department was aware of local legal conditions.

The general form small print says you've got to pay MSN back the rebate if you cancel, while the California/Oregon version doesn't mention this. Which would probably be OK for Microsoft (or maybe just MSN - IPO it quick) if people didn't know they could just walk into a store and get $400 for free, but unfortunately, now they do.

A Microsoft spokesman told the Mercury that the deal was such great value he didn't expect to see many people cancelling, but Microsoft spokesmen are like that. (Mercury story) ®

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