Business & Finance

Microsoft was sued by six California cities and counties, among them Los Angeles and San Francisco, for allegedly using its monopoly in personal computer software to overcharge them for its Windows, Word, and Excel programs between 1995 and 2001. The plaintiffs also asked the court to make the suit a class action on behalf of all local governments in California. In a similar suit last year, a coalition of 27 consumer groups in the state won an order for Microsoft to pay $1.1 billion in vouchers redeemable for computer-related equipment. If a judge OK's class- action status for the new filing, Microsoft could be liable for additional billions, analysts said. A Microsoft spokes-man said the company has been a market leader in "delivering innovative software at low prices."

Chief executive Rod Eddington and other senior managers of British Airways gave up their Saturday to help facilitate flights at Heathrow Airport outside London as the carrier struggled to recover from a turbulent week in which more than 100 flights were canceled, stranding - and angering - thousands of passengers. The cancellations were attributed to a combination of bad weather, technical breakdowns, and a shortage of employees due to the cutting of 13,000 jobs over the past three years. London newspapers reported that BA would press the first of 200 newly trained employees into service beginning Monday to cope with passenger flow. They also said that Eddington was expected to open an internal investigation Monday into the chaos, which could cost the airline as much as $18 million, and was not ruling out managerial changes.

Mayflower Vehicle Systems Inc. announced plans to lay off 375 employees at its South Charleston, W. Va., stamping plant beginning in late October. The downsizing anticipates the end-of-year expiration of a contract with Daimler Chrysler's Mercedes Benz division. Since Mayflower's British parent, Mayflower Corp. PLC, was declared bankrupt in March, customers have been wary of signing new contracts, a company spokesman said.

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