Microsoft and the European Commission

UPDATE: January 17, 2009, 10:15 a.m. Pacific -- The European Commission has commented on the Statement of Objections it sent to Microsoft Thursday.  You can read the full text on the Commission’s Web site.

Posted by David Bowermaster 
Administrator, Microsoft on the Issues

For those of you following our new blog who are not journalists, we wanted to give you a heads up about a press statement we issued a few minutes ago.

As you’ll see, the statement concerns a legal action we received yesterday from the Directorate General for Competition of the European Commission.  (DG Comp, to use the shorthand, sets and enforces marketplace rules that apply to all companies doing business in Europe).

The “Statement of Objections” concerns our practice of including Internet Explorer browsing technology in the Windows operating system, which we’ve done since 1996.

We’ll provide a formal response to DG Comp within the next two months.  In the meantime, since this is a legal matter, we won’t have much to say publicly.  But, in the interest of transparency, we wanted to make sure you were aware of the issue and heard about it directly from us.

January 16, 2009

“Yesterday Microsoft received a Statement of Objections from the Directorate General for Competition of the European Commission.  The Statement of Objections expresses the Commission’s preliminary view that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 has violated European competition law. According to the Statement of Objections, other browsers are foreclosed from competing because Windows includes Internet Explorer. The Statement of Objections states that the remedies put in place by the U.S. courts in 2002 following antitrust proceedings in Washington, D.C. do not make the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows lawful under European Union law."

“We are committed to conducting our business in full compliance with European law.  We are studying the Statement of Objections now. Under European competition law procedure, Microsoft will be afforded an opportunity to respond in writing to this Statement of Objections within about two months. The company is also afforded an opportunity to request a hearing, which would take place after the submission of this response. Under EU procedure, the European Commission will not make a final determination until after it receives and assesses Microsoft’s response and conducts the hearing, should Microsoft request one.“ 

-- Microsoft Corporation

Comments (21)

  1. arumib says:

    The plaintiffs alleged that Microsoft abused monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of operating system sales and web browser.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Statement of Objections expresses the Commission’s preliminary view that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 has violated European competition law. According to the Statement of Objections,

  3. Anonymous says:

    Howdy    I am new here and I just wanted to say hi!    Bye!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Shalom    This is my first post here.. Hello to everyone!    Bye everyone!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Microsoft should pull out of Europe immediately. No more support, no more software sales, no more anything. Stop paying the extortion and let them know who's software they depend on.

  6. Anonymous says:

    If people dont want to use IE they are free to install an additional browser … or better still stop using Windows OS !    I for one want my Windows OS with my IE !!

  7. Anonymous says:

    <P>What a strange time for Europe to do this. The browser has been integrated into Windows since the mid-1990s. Other browsers are doing well in Europe (Mozilla Firefox); new browsers are being introduced (Google Chrome). The same exact issue was litigated and settled in the U.S. a decade ago, and the EU case threatens to create a conflict with the U.S. case. Europe’s and the world’s economies are in crisis – is this the time to challenge design of the operating system that powers so much of the world’s business? And, not least, this comes on the eve of President Obama’s inauguration – do you welcome the new American president with a new, potentially conflicting case against a major American firm during a recession?  Those of us who teach and write about antitrust law benefit from any new filings that give us more to talk about, but you have to wonder what explains this one.</P>  <P mce_keep="true"> </P>  <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">Ron Cass (Dean Emeritus, Boston University School of Law; Senior Fellow, International Centre for Economic Research)</P>  <P mce_keep="true"> </P>

  8. Anonymous says:

    Today, the EU commission confirmed it had issued a Statement of Objections. We modified the above post to provide readers with a link to their announcement.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Fabulous! MS worked hard to strangle the ability of browsers back in the late 90's because of their fear of competition from applications that could run on a browser, targeted Netscape for termination, and succeeded (see US anti trust case). This is some extremely belated work to clean up the problems in the industry resulting from the non remedy for MS's anti trust conviction put in place by the Bush administration.    It is possible that in some distant future moment MS management will drop the predatory monopoly business model and focus on innovation (for real, not just as a propaganda line) as a business model instead. This is an extremely positive development for those of us who want a computer industry in which better products win on their merits, and not as a result of monoply leveraging.

  10. Anonymous says:

    IE being present on Windows is absolutely no block to PC owners electing to install other browsers, as the growth in the use of Firefox demonstrates.    Even when it comes to content written specifically for IE, many millions of users have downloaded – free – our Neptune plugin, which allows IE-specific content to be hosted and run in most other makes of browser on Windows. Neptune has been available since 2000, and even the Opera folks provide a 'Run in IE' button for those with Neptune installed and publish links to the plug-in's location.    This an entirely specious objection from the EU, to which we object most strongly. To add insult to injury it is paid for in part by my (UK registered) company's enforced contribution to the unelected gravy-train that is the European Commission.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yeah… I guess delivering an OS without an initial browser installed – effectively baring 80% of pc users of knowing how to get to the download site of FF, Opera or Chrome to install any of those browsers – will give a boost to downloads of FF etc…  Or … wait…    Huh?

  12. Anonymous says:

    So what the EU is saying is she should buy Windows without a browser and then get in our car or walk to the nearest store and pickup a CD with IE or a competing browser on it? If the OS has no browser how are we supposed to use a different one since we can't download it because we have no browser? Back in the day an internet browser was something nice to have when the internet was new, but now its as basic as a file system.    Whats next Windows should be shipped with no built in file system?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I disagree with European Commission on the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows. I appreciate a windows operating system as it is shipped today. Most common functions work immediately without spending hours of searching and downloading appropriate software to get up and running. I'm very satisfied with my XP and Vista computers and my HTC phone with windows mobile incl. the bundled software such as photo viewer, internet explorer and windows media player. All products work fine and saves a lot of time. Let the consumer decide of the bundled software needs te be replaced by other software that is more specific or designed for professional users.  European Commission should not interfere with Microsoft bundled software.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Microsoft should just make a windows Vista called EU Vista, that has nothing on it so they will be happy.  There are going to continue stating that every OS components should be sold (or givien away free) seperatly. Pain brush, calculator, search, folders, notepad, email, video player, audio player, sound, a start menu, desktop icons, messenger, browsers, virus proctection, firewall protection, dual-boots, backups, picture viewers, you name it. Whatever any other EU company can do, it should then be taken out of the windows OS.     How can windows be motivated to innovate when half of the new components or ideas are going to be fined by the EU?    I would to see if the EU tell any EU company, with a large market share to strip down their product. Tell Nokia to sell their cellphones with any browser or any OS. Tell airbus to use brazilian seats or engines.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Microsoft fooled the Commission with its Media Player ruling compliance. No one ordered Microsoft to provide a special version without Media player for the same price. So you can play these tricks one time but they won't get you a second chance. They want real compliance.    I hope your lawyers understand very well the case and explain you the likelihood to overcome the objections. To follow the emotional and spirit of some commentators who question competition law is a rather bad advise but you are free to dig your hole deeper.    Politicise it and Microsoft will fail big. Microsoft cannot really afford to play the national card, or it might find itself in a situation where European policy makers decide to develop their own European Operating System as the Russians are planning according to some unreliable news sources.    Antitrust enforcement is not political and does not follow a national paradigm. Get into polemics, excalate and you will see where it ends. You will not be able to influence the case with political interventions.    Microsoft's past antitrust and interoperability lobbying has burned its reputation in Brussels. It is time to become reasonable and conservative (in the European sense, that is abstention from aggressive communication, not in the Republican sense). Comply or die.

  16. Anonymous says:

    'I disagree with European Commission on the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows. [..]    European Commission should not interfere with Microsoft bundled software.'    I expect the Commission to execute the applicable laws and act when a company complains on grounds of law. Your comment is as baseless as to say: 'I don't think a judge should go after Robin for stealing from the rich and powerful'. What makes you a criminal is described in the code penal. We are not in a revolution. When you break the law you get punished and the enforcement authority just applies the law.    Except in the world of Mr. Berlusconi or under an utterly corrupt government NO ONE has the right to first break rules and then change the rules. In particular Microsoft has no right whatsoever to criticise European antitrust laws as we enable the company to sell its products on our markets without any real limitations. The complaint from Opera looks well-founded under European law as tying is factually illegal for market players which are convicted monopolists. If Microsoft lawyers are unable to explain European market rules to the company, and competitors complain, the authorities have to intervene and enforce the law. No one asked Microsoft to get on our markets, it was a deliberate decision of the company and there are rules and principles which preempt its own abuse.    Compliance and apology is the only acceptable behaviour.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Boycott Novell has an interesting story about interference with Firefox by a Windows Update.  The reports are that the update installs a Firefox browser plugin without warning which is difficult to remove.  Obviously Firefox is not a component of Windows, so updating it is not related to a Windows update and so, the update modifies unrelated components.…/malware-techniques-dot-net    <a href="…/a>.  Are you trying to demonstrate the futility of browser unbundling so that the EU can jump directly to fines or import controls?  .

  18. Anonymous says:

    Who is the EU ( Extortion Uniion) really representing? European Companies or Customer?  As a customer , the Web/Internet is an integral part of a wholesome PC experience. The web browser should be an integral part of the OS and should not cost me a dime more. If there is a browser that is head and shoulders above IE and I really need that functionality, I will buy. Think of why I-Pod and I-Phone have great sucess despite a multitude of competitive offerings.    Instead of innovating, differntiating their browser offerings and make them compelling to the end users, these European competitors appear to be using EU as a legal weapon to compete.  Grow up European companies, fight on your business / technical merits,competencies and skills. Let the market place determine your success or failure not EU.    

  19. Anonymous says:

    Instead of innovating, differntiating their browser offerings and make them compelling to the end users, these European competitors appear to be using EU as a legal weapon to compete.  Grow up European companies, fight on your business / technical merits,competencies and skills. Let the market place determine your success or failure not EU.    1: When you enter a competition, say a box fight or war, you agree on a set of rules.    2: A company enters the European market where certain rules of competition apply that were made by Europeans.    3: The rules are now enforced because the competition is uneven and another non-EU company complained. Microsoft uses its operating system monopoly to promote an inferiour browser solution, that is known as tying. The case would be completely baseless if Microsoft wasn't an established monopolist.    4. Go on and tell it to European regulators. That makes them confident that your case is lost.  

  20. Anonymous says:

    For all other companies and goverment owned commissions, Microsoft has become one of important source of income.    "Shame on you people who don't understand the business and competition"    I believe Microsoft is playing fair enough to give user the maximum returns of money which is used for buying Windows. Mozilla Firefox is free so as Google Chrome, anyone who dislike IE can simply download the FF or whatever but just for the sake of people who dislike IE, we can not afford a Windows without IE. Because, I believe IE is liked by more number people not because it is coupled with windows but the kind familier experience like working on windows itself.    IE has rocked and will be rocking and prove it's potential to the people who has doubt in it.    Secondly, today they are talking about integration of IE with windows, can anyone guarantee me that in future they won't talk about following things:    1. Integration of Windows Media player with Windows  – According to the EU, user should buy Real Player or other stuff instead of WMP, if I am not wrong!!!    2. Integration of Windows calender with Windows    3. Integration of Windows contacts wit Windows    the list goes on……….    Come on all you big companies like Google and Mozilla start playing fair. Make your respective browser(s) more  powerful and simpler then IE so that people won't use IE and start using your browser. But mind one thing, IE is the product of Microsoft, the most innovative company in the field of software, and they do have the moral right to promote their product with their own products like Google promotes Google toolbar with Google search engine.    Finally, in India we say "Jaago Grahak Jaago" which means "Wake up, Consumers Wake up!"

  21. Anonymous says:

    EU=parasits?     When considering that the american debt is a world leader, guess who's a parasit?    I sometimes wish I'd rather be in the US than in Europe, though and one reason for this is the european comission represents the industry, not customers at all. Thank them: Europe still is a huge market for Microsoft!  

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