EC hits back at Microsoft over anti-trust non-compliance

The European Commission has hit back after being criticised by Microsoft over the way it handled Microsoft’s response to its anti-trust ruling against the company.

The European Commission has hit back after being criticised by Microsoft over the way it handled Microsoft’s response to its anti-trust ruling against the company.

So far the Commission has rejected Microsoft’s proposed remedies to comply with the whole judgement, with Microsoft yet to properly share its workgroup server protocols with rivals.

This outstanding demand from the judgement is designed to make it easier for Microsoft’s rivals to build systems more easily that work within a Windows environment.

Microsoft had previously claimed that the Commission had unfairly encouraged an independent trustee, appointed to oversee this area of compliance, to consult Microsoft’s rivals over its attempts to comply.

As these companies had an interest in the outcome, Microsoft accused the Commission of failing to act as an independent regulator.

However, the Commission has today published the terms of reference for the independent trustee, who was chosen from a list by Microsoft.

The document covering the trustee’s appointment, dated July 2005, states, “The trustee should not only be reactive, but should play a proactive role in the monitoring of Microsoft’s compliance”.

The Commission says the document makes it clear that the trustee, under the supervision of the Commission, has to monitor Microsoft’s compliance on his own initiative.

In order to fulfil that proactive role and to form his own, impartial view on complex technical questions, says the Commission, the trustee must be in a position to gather views on compliance issues through contacts not only with Microsoft engineers but also with potential beneficiaries of the compliance remedy.

The Commission said, “The trustee’s contacts with such potential beneficiaries are therefore part of his obligations, and not in any way a form of inappropriate collusion as has been suggested [by Microsoft].”

Microsoft had also suggested that the Commission was withholding documents related to the compliance investigation.

But the Commission points out that the documents Microsoft is referring to, including communications between the Commission and the trustee, were already categorised as “internal” under the terms-of-reference document, so Microsoft is not entitled to them. Microsoft had accepted this terms-of-reference document before the trustee started his compliance work.

Microsoft is facing a daily £1.4m fine if it does not comply. It is attending a final compliance hearing later this month, after which it could be fined.

Microsoft has so far not responded to today's Commission announcement.

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