EU slaps Microsoft (again) for antitrust over IE bundled with Windows

Opera Software's year-old antitrust complaint against Microsoft took another step toward being vindicated today, and the Oslo-based browser maker is applauding the European Commission's decision. Opera had filed a complaint with the EC contending that Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows violated antitrust rules. Yesterday, the EC sent a "Statement of Objections (SO)" to Microsoft outlining a preliminary finding that bundling IE with Windows does indeed infringe on "the EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant position (Article 82),"according to a press release issued today by the EC.

Interestingly, Microsoft Subnet had only last week been asking the folks at Opera if they had any news on this complaint, which was filed in December, 2007. A representative of Opera sent Microsoft Subnet this written statement, hot off the presses. From our point of view, Opera can't help crowing just a little.

“On behalf of all Internet users, we commend the Commission for taking the next step towards

restoring competition in a market that Microsoft has strangled for more than a decade. The

Commission’s Statement of Objections demonstrates that the Commission is serious about getting

Microsoft to start competing on the merits in the browser market and letting consumers have a real

choice of internet browsers,” says Jon von Tetzchner, Chief Executive Officer, Opera Software.

“The Court of First Instance’s judgment was clear that Microsoft illegally tied Media Player to

Windows. We are not surprised that the Commission has issued a Statement of Objections based on

the principles in that judgment. We are confident that the Commission will ultimately conclude that

Microsoft has violated European competition law again and that it will take all necessary actions to

restore competition and consumer choice in this important market,” says Jason Hoida, Deputy

General Counsel, Opera Software.

Microsoft has eight weeks to reply the SO. It will then have the right to be heard in an Oral Hearing. If the preliminary findings are confirmed, the Commission may impose a fine on Microsoft (one of its favorite things to do), require Microsoft to cease the abuse (which seems more effective than a fine and a turn-of-the-head to see no more). It could impose other remedies if it feels they are necessary to restore consumer choice.

This new slap from the EC comes almost a year and half after the judgment of the European Court of First Instance that confirmed the European Commission's 2004 decision that Microsoft had illegally tied Windows Media Player to Windows. A Statement of Objections is a formal step in an EC antitrust investigation in which the EC informs the parties in writing of the objections raised against them. The defending party can then set out all the facts to defend itself or request an oral hearing.

Microsoft issued a statement that acknowledged it received this missive from the EC and that it has about two months to respond.

Visit the Microsoft Subnet web site for more news, blogs, podcasts. Also see:

Windows 7 beta wrecks your MP3 files (already has a patch)A boycott of IE Mobile in the works?Ron Barrett: Why Windows 7 will crush Linux Mitchell Ashley:Why Windows 7 will never kill off LinuxWindows Server 2008 R2 beta ready for downloadingGlenn Weadock: Windows Server 2008Subscribe to all Microsoft Subnet Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.)

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