The European Union has commenced an inquiry into Microsoft bundling its Teams video and chat app with other Office products to examine potential anti-competitive practices.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, expressed concerns that these practices might constitute anti-competitive behavior. The inquiry comes in response to a formal complaint lodged in 2022.
The complainant, Slack, a direct competitor of Microsoft’s Teams and a company owned by Salesforce, raised concerns about Microsoft’s alleged engagement in illegal competition circumvention.
The Primary Focus
The investigation primarily focuses on Microsoft’s bundling strategy, specifically the inclusion of Teams with its widely used Office 365 suite. More specifically, Microsoft doesn’t allow customers to exclude Microsoft Teams when subscribing to Office 365.
If found to breach EU competition rules, Microsoft may face a substantial fine, up to 10% of its global annual turnover.
The European Commission examines whether this lack of choice could be perceived as anti-competitive tying or bundling. It also aims to assess whether such bundling practices could create obstacles for competitors and impede fair market competition.
Additionally, the Commission has raised concerns about interoperability between Microsoft’s software and third-party products.
While emphasizing the significance of remote communication and collaboration tools for businesses, Margrethe Vestager (Executive Vice President of the European Commission) expressed the Commission’s commitment to ensuring a competitive market environment.
She clarified that the investigation intends to provide companies with the freedom to choose the most suitable products that meet their specific requirements.
Microsoft’s Response, EU’s Take
Microsoft’s spokesperson responded to the investigation by expressing the company’s commitment to cooperating with the European Commission and addressing the raised concerns.
He clarified that Microsoft acknowledges the significance of the case. The company is dedicated to finding appropriate solutions to promote fair competition in the market.
At this stage, possible commitments by Microsoft to resolve the concerns are too early to be discussed. We first need to identify indeed if there is a breach of antitrust considerations.Arianna Podesta, EU spokesperson
Podesta’s statement emphasizes the EU’s cautious approach in considering any potential remedies or commitments from Microsoft while the investigation is ongoing.
Podesta has also clarified that throughout the inquiry process, the focus will remain on establishing a level playing field in the market for communication and collaboration tools.
The investigation will ensure that consumers and businesses don’t face undue restrictions when choosing the required tools.
According to industry experts, this investigation marks a significant milestone in the EU’s oversight of major tech companies. It will ultimately determine whether bundling practices, as observed with Teams and Office products, can be deemed anti-competitive under EU law.
The outcome will potentially have far-reaching implications for Microsoft’s business practices. Besides, it could set a precedent for future antitrust investigations in the technology sector.
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