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EU prepares antitrust charges against Microsoft over Teams

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  • 3 min read

The European Commission, the executing body of the European Union, is preparing to escalate its antitrust confrontation with Microsoft. The Commission is focusing on allegations of anti-competitive practices linked to Microsoft’s videoconferencing platform, Teams. The Commission is readying formal charges against Microsoft, the tech giant at the forefront of the sector, over concerns of stifling competition.

First reported by the Financial Times, Microsoft’s recent attempts to avert regulatory scrutiny by offering concessions include extending plans to separate Teams from other software like Office globally. They argue that these measures do not adequately promote fair competition in the market.

The core issue revolves around fears that Microsoft may favour Teams by ensuring smoother compatibility with its software suite compared to rival applications.

Additionally, concerns about data portability have energy, making it challenging for current Teams users to transition to alternative platforms.

This impending move by the commission signals a significant escalation in a longstanding dispute that began in 2020 when Slack, now owned by Salesforce, filed a formal complaint against Microsoft’s Teams. It also marks the end of a decade-long truce between EU regulators and the American tech giant, following earlier competition probes that culminated in a substantial fine imposed on Microsoft in 2013.

Microsoft tried to alleviate the situation by unbundling Teams from Office. But, the EU was not satisfied.

Financial Times, citing insiders who know about the situation, reports that formal charges could be filed in the future, highlighting a decisive shift in the regulatory landscape. Microsoft’s competitors and EU authorities are actively engaging this week to discuss the case, underscoring the gravity of the charges being prepared.

There are uncertainties regarding this situation. Microsoft still has the opportunity to offer concessions at the last minute, potentially changing the direction of the EU’s legal proceedings, or the commission may choose to postpone or drop the charges entirely. The possible consequences for Microsoft are substantial, including fines that could reach up to 10% of its global annual revenue if it is found to have violated EU competition law.

Although Microsoft has not officially commented on the matter, the company has reiterated its commitment to collaborating with the commission to find mutually beneficial solutions for European customers and developers.

Simultaneously, this legal confrontation occurs amidst increased scrutiny of Microsoft’s activities. The EU is investigating Microsoft’s $13 billion partnership with OpenAI for potential competition law violations. Furthermore, Microsoft is among the tech giants identified as a ‘gatekeeper’ under the new Digital Markets Act, subjecting it to special obligations in European markets.

European cloud computing providers have also expressed concerns about Microsoft’s alleged abuse of its dominant position, which may stifle competition from smaller players.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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