Microsoft has settled another anti-trust action brought against it by a US state, agreeing to offer $37.8 million in vouchers for free software and hardware to Arkansas residents.

As usual, part of the deal for settling the class action lawsuit is that the software giant is free to state that it did not violate Arkansas anti-trust and consumer protection laws. Judge Alice Gray of Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock will consider whether to approve the settlement on in March.

The class action centered on whether Microsoft overcharged for operating system, word processing and spreadsheet software. Those eligible for settlement money are consumers or volume licence customers based in Arkansas and bought the company's software either from Microsoft or another retailer between January 1998 and December 2004.

Several other states have filed similar class-action suits, alleging Microsoft abused its near-monopoly position in the market to overcharge for its software. Microsoft settled with Arizona in June 2004 for $104.6 million and California for $1.1 billion in January 2003.

According to the proposed settlement, Microsoft will give vouchers that can be used to buy computers, peripherals or other software from any manufacturer, similar to the settlements in other states. A website with details on how to file a claim for the Arkansas settlement has been set up.

If approved by the judge, the settlement calls for half of the unclaimed benefits to go to schools with students from low-income households, and half of the unredeemed vouchers will be given to Arkansas' Department of Education.