For a while, now users of older versions of Windows have been seeing frequent prompts to upgrade to Windows 10, and many users have been rejecting the offer. Now those computers have begun to automatically upgrade themselves to Windows 10 against the wishes of their owners. This strikes me as a clear case of the common understanding of unauthorized access, but I don't know if it meets the legal criteria for unauthorized access.

Is Microsoft breaking any laws by forcing computer owners to upgrade to Windows 10 against their will?

I'm in the U.S.A., so I'm primarily interested in U.S. law but curious about other jurisdictions.

Some related articles:

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    Did you agree to automated Windows updates for your current version (which this arguably is an update)? If yes, then there's no unauthorized access. – user662852 Jun 4 '16 at 17:01
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    The updater asks the user to upgrade several times; if the user refuses every time, the updater then replaces the OS anyway. This is not the same process as the routine automatic updates. – ShadSterling Jun 4 '16 at 20:40
  • My solution to this problem is Linux. Microsoft acts this way at its own peril. – phoog Apr 3 '19 at 3:36
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    Windows 7/8 out of the box does not know about Windows 10. Apparently you've kept them to automatically download and apply any and all updates, which you certainly could do differently e.g. show available updates only but let you choose what to download/apply. Because of this, any legal action is likely to fail. – Greendrake Apr 3 '19 at 10:31

You asked about other jurisdictions. As you'll probably be aware (from cases like EU vs Microsoft and EU vs Google) European countries and culture tend to have much stronger protection laws for consumer and employee rights than the US does.

In the UK you could make a strong case, although such cases are not often undertaken. The current legislation is Part 2 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, but the unfair contract terms clause goes back to at least the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. Basically the law protects a person in a situation where disparity of size and bargaining power have led to unfair terms in a contract (typically a large company offering "take it or leave it" standard terms) - and specifically if they create a significant disparity in the parties rights and obligations. In such a situation the company which drafted the terms alleged to be unfair must show they are reasonable. A list of common terms likely to be seen as unfair is provided. (Employment terms are covered by other laws but also aim to prevent abuses due to inequality of contracting power)

A company which sold a product like Windows 7/8/8.1 and then later said "we are changing our terms of support and forcing you to upgrade" (especially to a different product the user may not want, or a product that is maintained in a different way),would almost certainly be at substantial risk of falling foul of this.

It wouldn't matter if it was done by not providing the support/patches as originally implied (by custom or normal expectation) or as agreed in an explicit statement of support life cycle, or by saying "we have the right under the contract to do this", or by forcing what is essentially a change of product to get the updates. It also wouldnt matter how big they are, nor whether or not the user had already agreed "because I felt I had no choice". The law is there specifically to protect against abuses like this, so it is drafted to catch companies who try to find "wriggle room".

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