EU court upholds Microsoft antitrust penalty, lowers it slightly

EU court upholds Microsoft antitrust penalty, lowers it slightly

Summary: An E.U. court has upheld a penalty fine handed to Microsoft following an antitrust decision in 2004.

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An E.U. court said on Wednesday that it will uphold an €899 million ($1.1bn) penalty handed out in 2008 by the European Commission, but will lower it by €39 million ($48m).

The European General Court, the second highest court in the E.U., said today it will lower the fine to €860 million ($1.07bn) following an antitrust ruling nearly five years ago.

"The General Court essentially upholds the Commission's decision imposing a periodic penalty payment on Microsoft for failing to allow its competitors access to interoperability information on reasonable terms," the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

The fine was lowered thanks to a letter sent by the Commission in 2005 saying Microsoft didn't have to freely distribute code that wasn't its own, and was already freely available elsewhere. Microsoft thought it was acceptable to continue acting in a way it had done so until 2004.

The case goes back to 2004 following Microsoft's decision to charge "unreasonable" prices for access to code that would allow competitors' products to interface property.

The European Commission has the power to fine a company up to 10 percent of its global annual turnover if they are found to be in breach of E.U. antitrust laws.

Microsoft was first fined €497 million in 2004, then slapped with a €280.5 million non-compliance penalty in 2006. In 2008, it was handed the €899 million fine that was under contest in the Luxembourg court.

The Redmond-based company said it wasn't given enough time to appeal the first decision, and was none the wiser about how much a "reasonable rate" it was expected to charge its competitors because the Commission failed to explain its reasoning.

Microsoft's penalty was a record for the time --- a figure which was subsequently beaten by Intel, who ended up falling foul of the E.U. antitrust regulators and was slapped with a €1.06 billion ($1.4bn) fine.

Intel is following Microsoft's lead and appealing its fine to the same court.

All in all, Microsoft's series of fines and penalties has cost the company a grand total of €1.64 billion ($2.05bn).

Microsoft said it was "disappointed" with the court's decision, but did not say whether it will appeal the ruling to the highest E.U court, the European Court of Justice.

"The fine, which was paid several years ago, related to the price Microsoft had proposed for one of several forms of licenses for technology Microsoft was required to make available by the Commission’s 2004 decision. In 2009, Microsoft entered into a broad understanding with the Commission that resolved its competition law concerns,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Image credit: Microsoft.

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Topics: Security, Enterprise Software, Government, Government UK, Microsoft

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12 comments
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  • Did M$ already pay the fine ?

    ???The fine, which was paid several years ago,
    related to the price Microsoft had proposed for one of several forms of licenses for technology Microsoft was required to make available by the Commission???s 2004 decision.

    This mean M$ already paid the fine or is it about other previous fine ?
    ljp882
    • Well

      Microsoft fully paid the around 500 million Euro 2004 fine. As to the various and sundry other fines that followed, I'm not too sure about if they've been paid. I'd say they have or we'd have been hearing a lot more about them and the EC isn't shy in putting the hammer down for people/companies/countries that disagree with their rulings/decisions and possible accompanying fines.

      Mayhaps Zack could expand and clarify the position, being a Brit and hence somewhat Euro as he is.
      ego.sum.stig
  • Seems like foul play from the EU.

    This feels like a Union who is desperate for money and is going after American businesses and levying record fines in an attempt to buoy it's struggling economy.
    gomigomijunk
    • At least you can spell foul

      A pity you either cannot or will not accept the historical record and due process that was afforded to Microsoft.

      Perhaps you would like a rubber chicken and some whine to go with your plastic cheese.
      ego.sum.stig
    • it's about international standards and level playing field

      for nearly two decades there have been international standards about key commands to allow computer software to be platform independent. However, despite initially using them (also being one of the group who set them) Microsoft stopped using those standards in 1995. Since then they've used codes that do not work with the International standards to make life harder for people to make software to run on Windows, Microsoft even change the codes every now and then just to make people pay them more money to be able to make software to run on Windows. The EU has said since it's a deliberate ploy on their behalf to limit competition, then they shouldn't be charging huge amounts for the code to allow others to write applications.

      They could just introduce a total ban for all computers and software that does NOT meet and use the International Standards, as does happen in some other industries, then Microsoft couldn't do business there at all.
      Deadly Ernest
  • An E.U. court has upheld a penalty fine????

    Why should Microsoft or anybody pay any fines to an EU court?? The EU will be going to the same place as the old Soviet Union very soon, into the dustbin of history. Good riddance too.
    malcom.jackson@...
    • Unless Microsoft pulls out of the E.U.

      They need to abide be local laws where ever they do business. Unless you feel Microsoft is above the law?
      Jumpin Jack Flash
    • And Good Old Uncle Sam ?

      Doesn't illegally kidnap and torture people without due process ? That sounds more like the good old USSR.
      Alan Smithie
    • If Microsoft don't pay the fines to conduct business within the EU

      then they can't sell any software or services there. At the moment they do enough business in the EU that they think it worth their while to stay within the EU legal system by paying the fines. This is very much like the DoJ case against Microsoft re MSIE in Win 95 - a heavy fine for uncompetitive behaviour that's outside the alws of the area they're doing business in.
      Deadly Ernest
  • Why are my comments not appearing?

    I can't seem to get a comment to appear.
    johngalt_0705
  • Microsoft? Anti-competitive behavior?

    Say it ain't so, Joe!
    sporkfighter
  • The money is for Greece

    The EU needs all the money they can get for Greece! JAJAJA
    lorenzosjb