Continuing a string of settlements, Microsoft yesterday said it will make available as much as $31.5 million in vouchers to end a class-action lawsuit in New Mexico.

Under the settlement, preliminarily approved by a New Mexico court last week, consumers in the state who bought certain Microsoft products during a specified period will be eligible to receive vouchers that can be used to buy computer hardware and software, Microsoft said in a statement.

Half of any unclaimed settlement money will go to needy public schools in New Mexico in the form of vouchers, Microsoft said. In addition, if a customer claims a voucher but does not use it by the expiration date, half the value of the voucher will still go to the schools, the software maker said.

The suit alleged that Microsoft abused its Windows monopoly to overcharge customers in the state for its software. The settlement is similar to ones Microsoft reached in 14 other states, including Arizona, California, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont. In all the settlements, Microsoft denies any wrongdoing.

Class-action cases in which Microsoft is accused of overcharging for its software are still pending in Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa and New York.

The private cases followed a federal court finding that Microsoft had abused its monopoly status in the desktop operating system market to the detriment of consumers. A settlement in the federal case was approved in late 2002.

In New Mexico, consumers and businesses who bought certain Microsoft operating system, productivity suite, spreadsheet or word processing software for use in New Mexico between December 8, 1995 and December 31, 2002, will be eligible to apply for the vouchers.

For details on any of the Microsoft consumer class action settlements are available online.