Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Antitrust News: EU Hits Microsoft With Record $613M Fine

The long-awaited European Union decision on the Microsoft antitrust case has been released. It is not pretty:

The European Union declared Microsoft Corp. guilty of abusing its "near monopoly" with Windows to foil competitors in other markets and hit the software giant with a record fine of $613 million Wednesday.

The EU's antitrust authority said that "because the illegal behavior is still ongoing," it was also demanding changes in the way Microsoft operates in Europe with the aim of improving competition globally. The EU edict goes well beyond the 2001 U.S. antitrust settlement.

It gave Microsoft 90 days to offer European computer manufacturers a version of Windows without the company's digital media player, which lets computer users watch video and listen to music and is expected to be an important market as multimedia content becomes even more pervasive in coming years.

The panel also chastised Microsoft for trying to "shut competitors out of the market" in software for office servers, by hoarding code that would help competing programs work smoothly with Windows computers. Microsoft now has 120 days to provide rivals in the server market with such code.

EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said the ruling was "proportionate" and "balanced," and said "dominant companies have a special responsibility to ensure that the way they do business doesn't prevent competition."

"We are simply ensuring that anyone who develops new software has a fair opportunity to compete in the marketplace," he told a news conference. [AP]
Anyone except Microsoft, that is.

UPDATE: Here's CAC's Press Release.

Here's the European Union's Press Release. Key quote:

"Dominant companies have a special responsibility to ensure that the way they do business doesn't prevent competition on the merits and does not harm consumers and innovation " said European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti.

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