Charles Forelle reported on Friday for The Wall Street Journal that the European Union Competition Commission is investigating the odd circumstances surrounding Microsoft’s unsuccessful effort to get the Office Open XML (OOXML) document format approved as an ISO/IEC standard.
European regulators are examining whether Microsoft Corp. violated antitrust laws during a struggle last year to ratify its Office software file format as an international standard.
European Union antitrust officials have asked Microsoft for information about its activities in the standards-setting process — an early step in an investigation — and are stepping up scrutiny of the issue, according to people familiar with the matter.
In the months and weeks leading up to the vote, Microsoft resellers and other allies joined standards bodies en masse — helping swell the Italian group, for instance, from a half-dozen members to 85. Opponents said Microsoft stacked committees. People familiar with the matter say EU regulators are now questioning whether Microsoft’s actions were illegal.
Among the potential legal theories being examined by the EU is whether alleged attempts by Microsoft to pressure countries to ratify the Office standard amounted to an undue stifling of competition.
We mentioned some of the hanky panky at the time, but never imagined that it might be considered fodder for the antitrust watchdogs. However, it dovetails neatly with the latest EU Microsoft investigations (which include OOXML) and nothing is beyond the purview of a modern bureaucrat.