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Next week, Microsoft faces its first formal EU antitrust probe in 15 years over allegations that the US tech giant unfairly ties its video conferencing app Teams to its popular Office software. become.
First-hand EU view that pressure from the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, comes after Microsoft’s concessions to allay competition concerns have proven inadequate four people said on Monday. Microsoft could be formally indicted as early as the fall if an investigation is launched, the two people added.
The commission’s decision to launch an investigation demonstrates the city’s determination to crack down on practices by big tech companies that could stifle competition. Apple, Google and Meta are all under investigation for alleged anti-competitive behavior.
In April, the Financial Times reported that Microsoft will bring Teams to customers’ devices after rival Slack complained that it violated EU competition law by “bundling” two services in 2020. It was reported that forced automatic installation of will be stopped.
But talks between the commission and Microsoft have stalled over whether the concession will affect the EU as a whole, or a wider geographic impact, according to the people, and Microsoft has been forced to take steps to ensure fair competition. He added that questions remain about the price he charges for Teams.
Talks this week focused on ways to avoid a formal investigation, the people said, adding that the chances of Microsoft avoiding a formal investigation were “very unlikely.”
“We continue to cooperate with the Commission’s investigations and are open to practical solutions that address the Commission’s concerns and better serve our customers,” Microsoft said.
“We have no specific comments,” the commission said, adding that “an evaluation of the complaint is ongoing based on our standard procedures.”
The investigation comes amid mounting political pressure on Microsoft. Stephanie John-Courtan, a member of the European Parliament who plays a key role in technical discussions in Brussels, last week put pressure on the commission to force Microsoft to make concessions to alleviate competition concerns.
“Three years after that incident, [Slack] Complaints have been filed and Microsoft’s dominance in the market has increased, but the complainants are still awaiting meaningful progress in the case,” wrote a member of the European Parliament representing the political group Renew Europe. . She pointed to numbers that suggest Teams has about 270 million users, while Slack has about 20 million users.
Slack, which was acquired by Salesforce, said at the time of the complaint, “to prevent Microsoft from bundling or tying its products illegally and continuing to harness its power from one market to another.” called on EU regulators to act on
The probe is Microsoft’s first antitrust investigation in Brussels since 2008. Brussels then accused the company of abusing its dominant position by forcing users to download the Internet Explorer browser that came bundled with Windows.
Microsoft reached a settlement with the commission, giving users the option of choosing their browser. But in 2013, the EU fined Microsoft €561 million for failing to keep its promises.