Since June 26, retailers and computer manufacturers have urged shoppers to buy computers already on store shelves loaded with the much-maligned Windows Vista operating system because they would qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it was released in October. As it turns out, Mouse Print* has learned that some computer purchasers will be asked to pay shipping, handling and other junk fees that total between $11 and $17 to receive their “free” upgrade disks.
Here is a part of a typical advertisement promising a free upgrade to Windows 7:
However, when visiting various computer manufacturers’ websites specifically set up for processing Windows 7 upgrade requests, some consumers will learn for the first time about the possible fees (that are often buried in a FAQ section or under Terms and Conditions):
The Details: “The Windows 7 Upgrade license is free for qualifying PCs. Only materials, shipping, handling, and fulfillment fees may be included in the cost of the upgrade program. If any fees apply, the amount will be presented to you prior to final submission of your order. At that time, you will have the opportunity to opt out before final order submission.” [from Lenovo terms] [Emphasis added]
“There is no charge for the Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program from HP; however, shipping, handling, and other fees (including taxes depending on local and state laws) might apply depending on the retailer or reseller where you purchased your eligible computer.” [from HP FAQ] [Emphasis added]
Dell ad 9/30/09. [Dell FAQ]
Dell told Mouse Print* that it is not going to charge any fees to US customers, despite disclosures to the contrary on their website and in recent newspaper ads (like the one above).
Both HP and Sony told Mouse Print* that they negotiated with big retail chains offering them the opportunity to allow their customers to receive completely free upgrades. Neither would provide a list of which retailers signed up, nor what retailers had to pay or agree to. Retailers say the manufacturers decided on pricing. So they are each pointing fingers at the other claiming the other is responsible for setting the shipping charges if any. Who’s caught in the middle? The consumer, who may not know until after purchase, whether they will have to pay high shipping and handling fees.
No manufacturers’ site linked from the official Microsoft Windows 7 upgrade page lists upfront the specific total charges that consumers will incur for shipping/handling/fulfillment, nor which retailers have agreed to “eat” the shipping charges and which have not. You often have to begin filling out the upgrade request form, sometimes with personal information including the serial number or part number of the computer you have purchased before the shipping costs are revealed. Lenovo is one of the few manufacturers that discloses their fee in the first step of the upgrade process.
Despite the near complete lack of price disclosure, Mouse Print* has learned some of the charges that some consumers will face:
|Manufacturer||Shipping Fees for “Free” Upgrade to Windows 7|
|Compaq||$0 for most buyers; others pay $12.99 for first kit|
|Dell||$0 for US online and retail purchasers|
|HP||$0 for most buyers; others pay $12.99 for first kit|
|Lenovo||$17.03 all buyers|
|Sony||$0 for some buyers; $14.99 for others|
|Toshiba||$0 for most buyers; $11.25/$12.99 for others|
Now to the retailers. There generally is little or no disclosure by retailers and etailers in their advertisements that some purchasers may have to pay substantial delivery charges to obtain their “free” upgrades, let alone the actual price that will be charged. Of course, some stores’ customers won’t have to pay any charges, but the consumer cannot tell the difference between sellers that fail to disclose the charges and ones that legitimately are not making their customers pay. Staples appears to be the only major retailer that clearly states separately for each computer in its circulars when customers will have to pay for shipping. Spokespeople for Amazon.com, Costco, Best Buy, and Office Depot told Mouse Print* that their customers will not be charged shipping and handling fees.
So what’s a consumer to do? If you have already purchased your computer, you can go on the manufacturer’s website to register for the “free” upgrade. During the registration process, manufacturers will eventually disclose the actual shipping cost, if any. If you have not yet purchased your computer, there is no real way to know whether purchasing it at retailer “A” versus at retailer “B” will result in a truly free upgrade (except those noted above).
And one last bit of bad news. Some customers who purchased computers since June 26, the start of the free upgrade qualification period, will not qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 7 no matter what, and different procedures and costs apply to purchasers of boxed Windows Vista:
- Computers with Windows Vista Basic are excluded from the program;
- Computers with Windows XP (except for the Professional Vista version downgraded to XP) are also excluded. That means virtually all purchasers of netbooks will not get Windows 7 free.
- Purchasers of boxed Windows Vista software versions higher than Basic since June 26 must process their upgrade requests through Microsoft at a cost of $9.99 for shipping and handling.
No doubt, the charges that some computer purchasers will be asked to pay for their “free” upgrades will come as a big surprise.