Becta takes Microsoft school policy to OFT

Becta takes Microsoft school policy to OFT

UK Government agency calls in Office of Fair Trading over school software licencing dispute

The UK government’s education technology agency Becta has reported Microsoft to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) after negotiations with the software giant over schools’ software licences reached stalemate.

Becta and Microsoft have been wrangling over software licensing to schools and the lack of interoperability between the Vista operating system and Office 2007 since January. Becta officials hope reporting Microsoft to the OFT will break the deadlock.

Bob Fenton, a representative for Becta, said: “Becta has been in a series of negotiations with Microsoft and this seemed like the next logical step to hopefully get something sorted faster. Becta does not promote open source, but ensures schools are offered the best deals possible.”

Schools opting for Microsoft are locked into a subscription licence, usually for one or three years, at the end of which they have the choice to renew. But Becta says that because Vista and Office 2007 are not interoperable with other vendors’ software, schools have little choice but to continue with Microsoft and cannot take advantage of better value offers.

“Schools having to license every unit, then having the issue of whether their software is compatible is not the best [deal] available and it is Becta’s job to promote [the best deal for schools],” said Fenton.

Microsoft has admitted it is in discussion with Becta, but has declined to comment on the matter because it has not yet seen a copy of Becta’s complaint to the OFT.

Lee Bevan, managing director for education reseller Leapfrog, said: “Locking schools into licensing contracts and technology such as Vista that is not compatible with other software is unfair. Schools are on a tight enough budget as it is.”

In a statement the OFT said it will consider Becta’s complaint carefully.