EC ends full-time antitrust monitoring of Microsoft

The European Commission is scaling back its checks on whether the software maker is complying with a 2004 ruling to share interoperability information.
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor
The European Commission has said it will stop actively monitoring Microsoft to check the software maker is complying with a 2004 antitrust ruling.

In 2005, the Commission appointed an independent trustee to assess whether Microsoft was supplying interoperability information for Windows with workgroup servers to software rivals. The Commission told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that it will no longer require a full-time monitor, and that it will use "ad hoc assistance" to provide it with advice on any issues arising from the ruling.

"We don't think it's necessary to have a full-time trustee any more, as there have been changes in Microsoft's behaviour, and third parties can exercise their rights before national courts," said Commission antitrust spokesman Jonathon Todd.

While the trustee has been removed, Microsoft still has an obligation to supply complete and accurate interoperability information, the Commission said in a statement. However, the agency said it is satisfied that the original set of interoperability information has been documented by Microsoft, and that Microsoft's licence agreements for third parties are sufficient to allow those parties to make cases in national courts, should any disagreements arise.

Microsoft was required to supply interoperability information to competitors following a 2004 ruling by then-competition commissioner Mario Monti. In addition to the workgroup server software interoperability issue addressed by the monitoring, the antitrust decision covered anticompetitive concerns to do with Microsoft's bundling of Windows Media Player with Windows. In its decision, the Commission not only required that the interoperability information be made public, but also called for the unbundling of Windows Media Player and fined Microsoft $613 million.

In 2008, the Commission fined Microsoft again, levying a $1.4 billion fine for failure to comply with the 2004 decision. Todd said that Microsoft has paid the fine, but that the money is currently being held in an account, gathering interest, pending the outcome of an appeal against the fine by Microsoft.

Other Commission antitrust investigations relating to Microsoft, including one into web-browser market dominance, are still being conducted.

This article was originally posted on ZDNet.co.uk.

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