EU won't seek new antitrust complaint against Microsoft

British Educational Communications and Technology Agency files complaint to the UK Office of Fair Trading

The European Commission confirmed it has received a complaint about Microsoft's business practices from a British government agency this week, but isn't following it up as it normally would with an antitrust complaint, according to a press officer.

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency filed the complaint to the Office of Fair Trading. "We are already looking into the issues raised in that complaint already and we are not treating it as a formal complaint to us," the press officer said.

Microsoft said in a statement Tuesday that it will continue to work with BECTA and the Commission to resolve the issues raised in the complaint.

BECTA filed the complaint with the UK Office of Fair Trading last October alleging that Microsoft's behavior impedes the exchange of files between Office 2007 and competitors' products and that its licensing practices in the market for software for schools are anticompetitive. BECTA Tuesday forwarded the complaint to the Commission.

"It is not just the interests of competitors and the wider marketplace that are damaged when barriers to effective interoperability are created. Such barriers can also damage the interests of education and training organizations, learners, teachers and parents," said Stephen Lucey, BECTA's executive director of Strategic Technologies.

Microsoft insisted that it is "deeply committed" to education and interoperability. More schools are upgrading to Windows Vista and Office 2007 as they recognize the benefit of "embracing technology to transform teaching and learning," and Microsoft has funded development of tools for interoperability between Office 2007 and products based on ODF.

" We believe that more and more schools are upgrading to Windows Vista and Office 2007 as they increasingly recognize the benefits of embracing technology to transform teaching and learning. We have funded the development of tools to promote interoperability between Office 2007 and products based on the Open Document Format," the company said in its statement.

BECTA's complaint arrived at the offices of the Commission's competition department just after Microsoft decided to appeal against the 899 million euro (US$1.3 billion) fine it received earlier this year for failing to honor the Commission's 2004 antitrust ruling against it.

Europe's top antitrust regulator "is confident its decision to impose the fine was legally sound," Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said Tuesday.

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Paul Meller

IDG News Service
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