Microsoft faces new antitrust cases from EU

15 Jan 2008

Less than three months after the Redmond-based software giant agreed to comply with all EU requested changes following accusations of abusing its dominant position in the marketplace, the company faces two fresh probes into further alleged antitrust practices.

The new allegations go against Article 82 of European Commission (EC) Treaty rules in two different categories concerning, yet again, the misuse of a dominant market position.

The first investigation will examine whether the company has tied its web browser, Internet Explorer, too closely to its Windows operating system.

This follows on from a complaint made by Opera Software ASA, a Norwegian firm that makes Opera, the popular alternative web browser to Internet Explorer, including Opera for the PC, Opera Mobile and Opera Mini.

The company claims that Microsoft is abusing its leading market position to deter customers from trying out competing web browsers.

“The complaint alleges there is ongoing competitive harm from Microsoft’s practices, in particular given the new proprietary technologies Microsoft has allegedly introduced in its browser that would reduce compatibility with open internet standards, and therefore hinder competition,” said the EC.

Furthermore the EC noted that other allegations had been brought to light regarding the typing in of other Microsoft products, including its desktop search and Windows Live.

The second investigation arises from a complaint by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), a group representing Sun Microsystems, IBM and seven other software companies.

The European Commision said in an official statement: “In the complaint by ECIS, Microsoft is alleged to have illegally refused to disclose interoperability information across a broad range of products, including information related to its Office suite, a number of its server products and also in relation to the so-called .NET Framework.”

However the EC finished by saying the initiation of proceedings “does not imply that the Commission has proof of an infringement. It only signifies that the Commission will further investigate the case as a matter of priority”.

Previously Microsoft was hit with a fine from the EU for €497m in 2004, followed by further fine of €280m, all related to antitrust findings.

By Marie Boran