Hewlett-Packard has refuted complaints that it isn't fulfilling a promise of a "free" Windows 7 upgrade on PCs and laptops saying it had never made any such offer in the first place.
"The UK communication regarding the Windows 7 upgrade from HP has never stated that this was available for free," a company spokeswoman told The Register.
We contacted HP after a number of readers got in touch to complain they had been "stung" by shipping and handling costs for each PC or laptop entered into the firm's Windows 7 upgrade program, which launched at the start of this month.
"Having purchased a shiny new HP EliteBook Laptop for over a grand, I was looking forward to my free Windows 7 upgrade to Vista Business, as widely advertised splashed across banners on the various e-tailers stores," said Reg reader Neil.
However, when he proceeded with his order, Neil was surprised to be asked for his credit card details to cover a £27 charge for "shipping and handling costs" for the upgrade.
Neil was perplexed that he was expected to cough up cash to pay for the media and accompanying licence to be posted out to him.
"Although given previous coverage of HP packaging fails, perhaps it will actually turn up on a palette inside a dozen boxes - hence justifying the obscene price tag," he noted.
HP's spokeswoman pointed us in the direction of its press release that doesn't mention the word "free" anywhere.
She told us that it clearly states the following regarding costs for the upgrade kit bought via the firm's Windows 7 Upgrade Option program:
"There is no cost for the Windows 7 Upgrade Kit from HP, however, there may be a charge to cover shipping, handling, and other fees."
But a number of customers aren't happy about the added charge.
"I’ve just bought 10 PCs from HP," Reg reader Mark told us.
"They were happy to tell us that they have a FREE upgrade to Windows 7 when it’s released. Great I thought. Today I got to order my FREE Windows 7 upgrade kit. Here’s where it all goes wrong... Shipping and handling costs £22 per unit!" he said.
"So my FREE upgrade for 10 PCs is actually costing £220. You can see why I’m annoyed."
We asked Microsoft if it could tell El Reg why its customers were being saddled with such charges when they expect to simply receive a free upgrade of Windows 7 from one of the software giant's hardware partners.
The company responded with a shrug.
"As it is the manufacturers like HP and Dell which decide whether there is a shipping and handling cost involved, Microsoft is unable to comment on this," said an MS spokesman. ®