Microsoft investigated by Russian antitrust body after Kaspersky complaint

Microsoft is being invested by Russian antitrust body for allegedly making it unfairly difficult for antivirus providers to compete following a major Windows 10 update.
Written by Tas Bindi, Contributor

Last Thursday, Russian antitrust authority said it had opened an investigation into Microsoft for allegedly abusing its dominance in the antivirus software market.

The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) is investigating whether the tech giant is in violation of Part 1 Article 10 of the Federal Law 'On Protection of Competition' [PDF], which prohibits companies occupying dominant positions in the market from engaging in activities that result or can result in "preventing, restricting, eliminating competition" and/or "infringing the interests of other persons (economic entities) in business activities or consumers at large".

The FAS opened the investigation upon receiving a complaint from Moscow-based internet security company Kaspersky Lab, which claims to have spent "months of fruitless discussions and multiple exhausting attempts to resolve the issue directly with Microsoft".

Kaspersky claims Microsoft has significantly reduced the period for independent developers to adapt their antivirus software for the Windows 10 operating system to just six days, compared with two months for earlier versions.

In addition, when a Windows user upgrades to the latest operating system, its antivirus software is disabled, with Microsoft's Windows Defender system taking over by default.

The same is occurring with other user-installed apps in cases where Microsoft has a competing offering within its ecosystem, Eugene Kaspersky lamented in a blog post.

With only six days to make the changes necessary to ensure compatibility, third-party antivirus software providers like Kaspersky do not have sufficient time to provide customers with adequate service and risk losing them to Defender, Kaspersky claimed.

Kaspersky also said Microsoft conceals antivirus license expiration warnings and automatically activates Defender if a trial period of a third-party product expires.

Anatoly Golomolzin, Deputy Head of FAS, said this leads to "unreasonable advantages" for Microsoft, adding that the FAS's priority is to ensure equal conditions for all participants of this market.

"Actually, Microsoft's actions aren't only making things worse for users and killing off the whole ecosystem of independent developers; they're also undermining users' trust in Microsoft: creating an illusion of security while destroying the main competitive advantage of its platform -- openness and democracy," Kaspersky wrote.

He also questioned the quality of Defender as an antivirus service, saying that "independent lab tests" have confirmed Defender's "below average" status in the security market. Kaspersky added that Windows Defender doesn't have features like built-in VPN, webcam protection, exploit protection, protection for online banking and online shopping, and proactive protection against future threats.

"The trend is clear: Microsoft is gradually squeezing independent developers out of the Windows ecosystem if it has its own application for this or that purpose," Kaspersky wrote.

A spokesperson from Microsoft told ZDNet that Microsoft Russia and Kaspersky Lab have a "long history of cooperation in different areas".

"Microsoft is committed to work in full compliance with Russian law," the spokesperson said.

"The company hasn't received an official notification from FAS. As soon as we get it, we will review it carefully."

Earlier this month, Microsoft launched its Slack team-collaboration competitor, Microsoft Teams, as a new feature of its Office 365 platform, provoking a response from Slack in the form of a full-page ad in the New York Times.

Updated 9:00AM AEDT 15 November, 2016: Quotes from Microsoft were added.

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