Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

Summary: Spain's competition commission said on Tuesday it has opened an anti-trust investigation into Microsoft's Spanish and Irish subsidiaries, on grounds that the company "blocked the sale by third parties" of PC software licences.Though details at this stage are sketchy, it is thought that the watchdog believes that collected information could indicate a possible violation of Spanish competition regulations.

SHARE:

Spain's competition commission said on Tuesday it has opened an anti-trust investigation into Microsoft's Spanish and Irish subsidiaries, on grounds that the company "blocked the sale by third parties" of PC software licences.

Though details at this stage are sketchy, it is thought that the watchdog believes that collected information could indicate a possible violation of Spanish competition regulations.

The investigation and ruling "must be completed within 18 months", the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch reports.

Microsoft's relationship with Europe has been fraught with difficulties over the past decade.

The European Commission, Europe's upper house, ordered the Redmond-based company to pay $613 million in fines in 2004, after an antitrust settlement over its Windows Media Player software was brought against the company. It also forced Microsoft into creating versions of its popular operating systems and products for European consumers, such as Windows and Windows Media Player.

Microsoft's 'browser ballot' screen for Windows users in Europe Microsoft's 'browser ballot' screen for Windows users in Europe

More recently, Microsoft was forced to display a 'browser ballot' screen for Windows users in Europe, allowing users to pick a browser of their choice, to open up competition away from Internet Explorer. Bundling the still popular browser with the operating system had been seen as an 'anti-competitive move' by the company by European regulators.

Earlier this year, Microsoft took an antitrust suit of its own against Google to Europe's upper house, alleging anti-competitive behaviour in Europe's search market. Europe has been investigating Google's search practices in the region, to determine whether it abuses its search position.

Microsoft recently angered the European Parliament, the lower house, after its UK managing director Gordon Frazer, admitted that the company's cloud-based services in Europe and further afield were vulnerable to U.S. inspection and intelligence gathering.

The European Parliament is investigating the reach of the Patriot Act. The Dutch government recently announced that it would ban U.S. providers until the reach of the U.S. counter-terrorism laws could be gauged.

Related:

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

29 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

    Most likely Spain is just looking for quick cash due to government cash flow issues.
    BillDem
    • Earth to Spain: Socialism has been a complete failure all over the world

      Everywhere it's been tried. It holds society back. Let it go and flourish.
      Johnny Vegas
  • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

    As soon as you thought it was safe.
    Return_of_the_jedi
    • Agreed. Which is why I'll never go to Spain

      @Return_of_the_jedi

      Next they'll start stealing wallets from tourists in the name of competition.
      William Farrell
  • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

    Does that mean I can get a mac in europe without safari and itunes installed?
    hiawatha98
    • Safari and iTunes weren't integrated...

      Safari and iTunes weren't integrated into the OS as to make it impossible to remove them. Apple didn't use its market dominance (if it had any) to force its competitors out of business or prevent them from competing.
      olePigeon
      • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

        @olePigeon - Hate to tell you this but Apple has 100% of the market for machines able to run OSX and iOS and goes out of its way to prevent any and all competitors from offering hardware that is physically capable of running OSX without modifications.

        That almost sounds anti-competitive to me.
        bitcrazed
      • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

        @bitcrazed: You might want to change your meds, as they are making you delusional. Microsoft goes out of its way to prevent me from replacing the OS on an Xbox, with a better OS. Apple chose to use the hardware model, just as many devices do. When you make the hardware, you own the option to use your own OS. When you make only the software, you are not afforded the same luxury.
        Rick_Kl
      • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

        @Rick_Kl

        Then will you be complaining about Nintendo (tries to prevent people from loading other OSs on the Wii) & Sony (tries to prevent people from loading other OSs on the Playstation)?

        Although those would be as off-topic as the XBox comment, since those devices' *primary* purposes are to play *proprietary* games (just try loading up your XBox game disc in a PS3), *entertainment* second, & Internet access a distant third...none of which even includes "traditional" uses for PCs like, say, productivity software, photo editing, etc.
        spdragoo@...
    • No you can't

      @hiawatha98
      Nor can you remove iTunes and Safari from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. They are integrated into the OS. Oh, and each of those devices have massive market dominance. And competitors to the iPad like the HP TouchPad have been forced out of business.

      All of those are facts.
      toddybottom
      • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

        @toddybottom Do you get paid to spread F.U.D, and lies? Or do you get some sort of perverse joy out of lying?
        Rick_Kl
      • Oh look, it's Rick, another village idiot

        Please place a checkmark next to the things that are true:<br>o You can remove iTunes and Safari from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad<br>o iPhone has little market presence in the smartphone market<br>o iPod Touch has little market presence in the PDA market<br>o iPad has little market presence in the tablet market<br>o HP didn't withdraw the TouchPad from the market because it was being trounced by the market dominating iPad<br><br>If you went through that list and couldn't check any of them then 100% of what I wrote in my post was true.<br><br>Idiot.
        toddybottom
      • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

        @Rick_Kl

        Exactly which part of his post are you contradicting? That you can't remove Apple's proprietary software from their proprietary iOS?
        spdragoo@...
  • Who is Elegant Business

    Who exactly is Elegant Business and what is the nature of their allegations?
    Your Non Advocate
    • Didn't you hear? They run Spain

      @facebook@...
      from what I heard they own the government

      HD ;)
      William Farrell
    • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

      @facebook@...
      http://www.infoworld.com/d/the-industry-standard/spain-investigating-microsoft-alleged-license-breaches-173584

      They run a website (www.softbrocker.com [sp?]), that apparently "specializes in reselling software licenses".

      They complained to the commission that Article 28 of the EU's Directive 2001/29/EC allowed them to resell licenses they'd "purchased". Full text of the directive:

      http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32001L0029:EN:HTML

      I think the problem, though, is the "tangible article" specification. The licenses they were purchasing under Microsoft's Volume Licensing Agreement may not qualify as "tangible" articles. For a comparison, in the State of Ohio, sales tax is due on the purchase of music CDs & cassettes, whether bought over the Internet or from a brick-and-mortar store; sales tax is *not* due, however, on the purchase of a "digital download" of a song or album (i.e. via iTunes), because the downloaded song is not a *tangible* item (at least not as defined in the Ohio Revised Code).
      spdragoo@...
      • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

        @spdragoo@...
        Per microsoft's licensing agreement ALL licenses are non-transferable. you agree to that when you install it, buy it, or use it (also according to the licensing agreement). you have the option of not using their products as an alternative.

        actually Microsoft should own softbrocker after they are done fining them for pirating their software. (incase you don't know Pirated software is generally considered the sale or use of licensed software by an unlicensed entity or individual.) more info on what is considered piracy... http://www.bsacybersafety.com/threat/software_piracy.cfm
        aiellenon
      • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

        @spdragoo@...

        I'd say some of your assertions are fundamentally wrong.

        Generally, no contract can be considered valid if it requires the forfeiture of legally established rights simply by virtue of purchase (and that includes, so-called, "EULAs"). If, by law (or precedent) "software" itself is considered to be a "tangible" asset (and is considered to be a transferred property... such as a book, painting, or CD is)... than, no, a company cannot "contractually" revoke someone's basic-property rights (I.E. resale-rights). This has been routinely upheld in the United States. And, in response, Microsoft is desperately trying to skirt those legal decisions by continuing to use the "license", "download", and "software as a service" claims to undercut those consumer-rights. I am not up on European (or Spanish) Law in this matter, however, if... Spanish (or EU) law considers all "licensed" software to be a "transferable tangible product"... then Microsoft's licensing-shenanigans may well be in violation of such contract (and "anti-trust") laws.

        Furthermore, to make the blanket claim that violating a contract, is "illegal" (without considering the legality, or enforceability, of said contract)... is effectively deceptive, and prejudicial.
        Raife_1
      • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

        @aiellon

        I hadn't tried to wade through the various license agreements yet; I *suspected* that was the case, but didn't want to say so without checking it. Thanks for the update.

        @Raife_1: again, you're missing the point. This company isn't selling *tangible software* (i.e. distribution discs). They're selling *licenses* that they obtained through Microsoft's site-license program.

        These *aren't* the boxes of software that you can buy in other stores or from other online vendors. They're not even the restore/distro OEM discs that come with your PC when you purchase it from a store or online vendor. These are *licenses* to use the software *in a particular physical location* and *usage is controlled by the purchaser".
        spdragoo@...
      • RE: Spain begins antitrust investigation into Microsoft

        @spdragoo@...

        "@Raife_1: again, you're missing the point. This company isn't selling *tangible software* (i.e. distribution discs). They're selling *licenses* that they obtained through Microsoft's site-license program."

        No, I'm afraid you are still missing the (legal) point. If Spain, or the EU considers a software "license" to be a "tangible sale" (purchase) ...which is a matter of Law, legal precedent, business-requirements, or just plain semantics... It -is- a tangible-software-sale (a "product" has changed hands for remuneration) whether a "software" business likes the definition, or not. An arbitrary assertion that the actual, physical, software is required, would therefore also be utterly-irrelevant. Furthermore, the simple fact is that U.S. software companies have been running all kinds of con-games (for years), trying to avoid legally-established consumer-rights and numerous court-decisions (including U.S. Supreme Court decisions) regarding "purchasing software", and 'consumers exercising their rights". And, if these, attempted, end-around-games fail to meet the legal-scrutiny, and lawful-requirements, in these countries (for acquiescing to contract-law and lawfully-established consumer-rights) ...and, these activities were used to manipulate the market, contrary to "anti-trust" law... then Microsoft will most likely be held accountable (no matter what, false, "IP/licensing/tangible-sale" claims are made).

        Based upon legal decision, after legal decision... in country, after country, after country... Microsoft has had an incredibly-long run of market, and legal, manipulation and deception... But, I think that so many are so totally fed-up with this company's antics... that the tide, at long-last, may finally be turning.
        Raife_1