The US Department of Justice (DoJ) is sharing information with the European Commission concerning its antitrust investigation of Microsoft. But although the DoJ yesterday called for penalties of $1 million a day against the software giant (see Newswire 21 October), EU action is not imminent.
Microsoft Europe's director of corporate affairs, John Frank, said he did not expect similar action from the EU in the near future. He was commenting on the DoJ action, which concerns Microsoft's bundling of its Internet Explorer browser with its operating system - something the US government alleges breaches a 1994 consent decree. The consent decree is similar to an undertaking given to the European Commission at the same time, Frank agreed.
"I think it is clear that the DoJ and DG4 [EC competition directorate general] entered the same consent decree and they share information," Frank said. "But as far as we know there is nothing imminent going to happen with DG4 on this particular issue."
Microsoft believes that, under the consent decree, the company can integrate products such as browsers into its Windows operating system and can add new functions to the system, he said. "Microsoft is in a much better position to take a position on how Windows should move forward than government lawyers."
Windows 95 was launched with Internet Explorer and this browser package has been shipped with every machine since Windows 95 launch in August 1995, he said, adding that Microsoft has upgraded its functionality.
The product and market situation in the EU is "similar" to that of the US, though the competition procedures are different, he noted.
Frank said Microsoft Europe has contacts from time to time with the EC but claimed: "I don't remember any recent discussions" on this issue.
A Commission source said the EC does not have the power to take immediate action for breach of its 1994 antitrust undertaking, in the same way as the DoJ.
Microsoft's Frank said the browser allegations "were obviously a significant challenge" while the Commission's separate investigation, revealed last week, "is pretty insignificant".
He said this licence agreement is nine years old, does not involve a current or future product and has arisen from a complaint from a competitor, though he declined to give the name.
"This is a pretty narrow and obscure issue. It does not bear any relation to what happened in Washington yesterday," he said.
Microsoft intends to vigorously defend its position against the DoJ allegations in court and is not in negotiations with the DoJ, he insisted, but added that the company will comply with any court ruling.
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