Microsoft launches anti-trust retaliation

Software giant Microsoft has upped the ante in its long-running battle with European Commission competition regulators, claiming to have been "denied due process in defending itself" from the threat of a €2 million a-day fine.

Microsoft and European regulators are once again at loggerheads following a series of accusations and rebuttals over whether the software giant has fulfilled its anti-trust obligations.

The European competition commissioner had threatened to impose daily fines of €2 million unless Microsoft provided evidence that it was complying with its landmark ruling against the vendor.

In the latest twist to this long-running saga, European commissioners indicated that Microsoft had failed to supply evidence to support its case, making the imposition of the fine more likely.

But Microsoft yesterday issued a statement claiming that its evidence had been handed to the Commission in December 2005.

"Microsoft has complied fully with the technical documentation requirements imposed by a 2004 European Commission decision, and the Commission has ignored critical evidence in its haste to attack the company's compliance," a company statement said.

In January 2006, Microsoft published some of the source code for its Windows operating system. The company claimed that this would enable rivals to develop interoperable software for the operating system, complying with the European anti-trust ruling.

EC officials rejected that version of events. "The onus is on Microsoft to explain precisely how and why the source code offer is relevant to ensuring their compliance," said the commission in a statement issued this week.

The Commission said that Microsoft had also submitted vital evidence after the December deadline.

To date, Microsoft's efforts to comply with the March 2004 ruling against the company have been the source of much disagreement. The EC's technical advisor, Professor Neil Barrett had described the software company's documentation as "totally useless".

Yet Barrett's appointment was intended to improve relationships: he was appointed to provide Commissioners with technical expertise, but was nominated by Microsoft.

In March 2004, the European Commission ruled that Microsoft had breached competition regulations through restricting access to its server software code. The company was fined €497 million, although that has been placed into a holding account until the appeal process is complete.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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