Mozilla wants to know why Dell is charging around $30 to install Firefox on new computers, contradicting its status as free software.
It’s not clear how widespread the charge is. The Next Web captured the screenshot pictured above with a £16.25 (approx US$30) charge for one model on Dell’s UK site, though at the time of writing the charge was no longer showing up for that particular model.
The issue was first raised by the Register following a complaint by a reader. Mozilla initially issued a holding statement but later told the BBC that it had no deal with Dell and that “Our trademark policy makes clear that this is not permitted and we are investigating this specific report.”
Mozilla’s legal terms state anyone using the Mozilla trademarks for Firefox cannot charge for the software. In fact you can’t even give it away free if you ask a customer to hand over personal details in return.
Dell claims it’s doing nothing wrong and that technically it’s not breaking Mozilla’s rules because it isn’t charging for the software itself.
“In this particular situation, the customer would not be charged for the Mozilla Firefox software download, rather the fee would cover the time and labour involved for factory personnel to load a different image than is provided on the system’s standard configuration.”
It’s questionable whether that argument is correct as the Mozilla rules refer to a ban on fees for “distribution (whether by download or other media)” which would appear to cover bundling it on a new computer.
Even if Dell isn’t technically breaking any rules, it’s a pretty cheeky practice. The Register notes that, given the time involved in installing Firefox, the charge is equivalent to around US$160 an hour.
While you can argue people have the choice of whether or not to use the “service” it’s so outlandish a charge that it does come across as taking advantage of people.