Brussels: The European Commission warned Microsoft on 1 March 2007 that it might face further fines in its long-running antitrust battle with Brussels, this time for seeking unreasonable prices from software makers for vital data.
Strongly criticising the U.S. software giant, an European Union executive said the latest formal charges could lead to new daily penalties on top of fines already levied.
“In the 50 years of European antitrust policy, it’s the first time we’ve been confronted with a company that has failed to comply with an antitrust decision,” the Commission’s competition spokesman Jonathan Todd said.
He said the continuing dispute, almost three years after the Commission ruled that Microsoft had abused the dominant market position of its ubiquitous Windows operating system, was solely due to the company’s behaviour.
“You have to look at their attitude while facing other antitrust authorities in other jurisdictions. This is a company that apparently does not like to have to conform with antitrust decisions,” Todd told a news conference.
Microsoft said the European Commission was trying “to regulate the pricing of our intellectual property on a global basis and not just within the EU”.
Microsoft said its prices were at least 30% below the market rate for comparable technology, while the Commission said competitive technology was nominally priced or free.
“No companies have signed up for Microsoft because it is too expensive,” said Todd.
The Commission imposed a record €497 million (Rs2,884 crore) fine on Microsoft and ordered it to change its business practices in April 2004, ruling the company had failed to give information to other makers of small-business servers needed to compete with Microsoft’s own products.
Microsoft has said it would be charging for interoperability information because it was based on its own innovative work and protected by patents, but the Commission said the information was either not new or available elsewhere royalty-free.
“The Commission’s current view is that there is no significant innovation in these protocols,” European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement.
“I am therefore again obliged to take formal measures to ensure that Microsoft complies with its obligations,” she said, rejecting as unfounded 1,500 pages of submissions by Microsoft.
Microsoft has four weeks to reply to the charges.In a statement Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith disagreed.“Other government agencies in both the US and Europe have already found considerable innovation in Microsoft’s protocol technology,” he said.Microsoft has appealed against the original 2004 decision to a European court which is due to decide on the case this year.