Cisco sued again by services company

Multiven continues to charge anti-competitive practices

Independent service organization Multiven this week filed another antitrust complaint against Cisco alleging again that the networking king abuses its dominant position in the market by denying opportunities for third-parties to service Cisco gear.

You might remember Multiven as the ISO founded by Peter Alfred-Adekeye, the former Cisco engineer at the center of a twisted episode in which Cisco allegedly orchestrated his arrest on hacking charges to force a settlement in a similar 2008 suit between the two parties. That case was settled in 2010, but not without Cisco wiping some egg from its face and Alfred-Adekeye indicted on the hacking charges.

This week's suit charges Cisco with bundling and tying software bug fixes, patches and updates to its SMARTnet maintenance services, "and through a series of other illegal exclusionary and anti-competitive acts designed to maintain Cisco's monopoly in the network maintenance services market for Cisco networking equipment." Multiven says this alleged practice seeks to "harm consumers" by locking out third-party ISOs from the Cisco equipment service and support market and forcing customers into SMARTnet contracts. The ISO claims Apple, HP and Microsoft make software updates available to anyone that's purchased those vendors' operating system and application software licenses.

But it doesn't stop there. Multiven also alleges that Cisco engages in a series of "illegal exclusionary and anti-competitive acts," like coercing its 52,000 reseller partners to refuse to deal with Multiven and not resell services from Multiven; and voiding the software licenses of customers that install their Cisco software on Cisco equipment procured from independent sources.

Multiven filed its complaint with the Swiss Competition Commission. Multiven is based in Zurich. The ISO claims that Cisco's alleged practices have "suppressed and virtually eliminated" the market for service and maintenance of Cisco gear in Switzerland by preventing ISOs from competing.

And in addition to denying customers choice and forcing them into SMARTnet contracts, Multiven alleges that Cisco can arbitrarily maintain or increase the price of its SMARTnet services due to the lack of competition. Multiven says it's looking out for the entire ISO industry, not just its own interests:

Multiven's requested remedies are intended to give consumers greater freedom, choice and cost savings while ensuring that the network maintenance services marketplace develops into an open, fair and competitive industry where Cisco competes solely based on the quality and value of its services.

Cisco says the charges are essentially nonsense and expects them to be dismissed, just as they were previously:

These allegations are completely without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves.  These claims are the same ones this company brought in the US three years ago that were dismissed, and the same they later filed with the EU, which the EU declined to pursue.

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