Microsoft has come out fighting today after being stung by the European Commission with a €280.5m fine for failing to comply with earlier anti-trust rulings demanding that it open up its technology to competitors.
Brad Smith, general counsel at Microsoft, has accused the Commission of a lack of clarity.
"We have great respect for the Commission and this process, but we do not believe that any fine, let alone a fine of this magnitude, is appropriate given the lack of clarity in the Commission's original decision and our good-faith efforts over the past two years," he said.
"We will ask the European courts to determine whether our compliance efforts have been sufficient and whether the Commission's unprecedented fine is justified."
Smith insisted that, despite today's fine, and the threat of a further penalty of up to €300m a day, Microsoft remains totally committed to complying with the Commission's ruling.
"The record will show that Microsoft has acted in good faith to comply with the Commission's decision. We delivered thousands of pages of technical documents from December 2004 onward," he said.
"When it became clear that there were disagreements over the technical documentation requirements, we pressed for greater clarity, we delivered revisions promptly, we offered unlimited technical assistance, and we even made our source code available to competitors in an effort to resolve the impasse."
Smith argued that the real issue is not one of compliance, but of clarity in the face of "aggressive" moves by the Commission.
"Having received a clear definition of the documentation requirements this April, we already have met nearly all those requirements in just three months," he said.
"We have dedicated massive resources to deliver high-quality documentation according to the aggressive schedule set by the Trustee and the Commission.
"We have delivered each of the first six milestones on time and have over 300 employees working round the clock to meet the seventh and final delivery date for this project, scheduled for 24 July.
"It is hard to understand why the Commission is imposing this enormous fine when the process is finally working well and the agreed-upon finish line is just days away."
Smith went on to claim that the fine is larger than the fines the Commission has imposed for even the most severe competition law infringements, such as price-fixing cartels.
"When you consider Microsoft's massive efforts to comply with this ruling, and the fact that more than a dozen companies are already using similar documentation provided in the US to ship actual products, we do not believe this fine is justified," he said.
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