When we last visited the EU’s European Commission and their plan to fine Microsoft up to €2 million a day, Microsoft was touting an April hearing as a “breakthrough” because they claimed they finally found out what documentation would satisfy EC complaints. Meanwhile, earlier this month EC competition honcho Neelie Kroes was entertaining the crowd with her crusty schoolmarm bit:
Today the EC’s competition commissioner Neelie Kroes again reminded the software giant that the daily penalty would be imposed – and backdated to December – if Microsoft didn’t supply adequate documentation.
“They should fill in their homework,” said Kroes, before the summer break.
“They had a time-out in filling in their homework, but that doesn’t mean there’s a time out for fines,” she said.
Well, according to Matthew Newman at Bloomberg News, it now looks like the EC is planning a sharp rap on Microsoft’s knuckles:
European regulators are recommending Microsoft Corp. be fined as much as 2 million euros ($2.5 million) for each day that it failed to disclose information on Windows to competitors, said four people familiar with the draft ruling.
The European Commission in Brussels told national competition authorities last week that Microsoft hadn’t provided sufficient information to competitors on the inner workings of the operating system, as required under a March 2004 ruling, said the people, who declined to be identified because the decision isn’t public.
Representatives of the 25-member European Union will meet July 3 to discuss the draft decision and again on July 10 to decide how much to fine Microsoft, the people said.
“The commission’s saying that they’re not accepting that Microsoft is getting away with this,” Neil Macehiter, a partner at Macehiter Ward-Dutton of Cambridge, England, said in a telephone interview. “They want to show that they’re taking action.”
“Microsoft has complied fully with every instruction given by the commission,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “Any fine would be unjustified and unnecessary.”
“Microsoft has committed massive resources to the technical documentation program following the guidance provided by the trustee in April of this year, and has already delivered five of seven installments of technical documentation developed to the agreed specification and according to the agreed work plan,” Microsoft’s statement said. “The next two installments will be submitted on June 30 and July 18 and Microsoft is working hard to also meet those deadlines.”
Note that this is separate from Microsoft’s April proceeding before the European Court of First Instance which, if completely successful, would invalidate all of the EC’s decisions including the fine.
Update: From Tobias Buck in Tuesday’s Financial Times:
According to several people familiar with the EU case, the European Commission’s antitrust directorate has drafted a ruling stating that Microsoft has failed properly to implement the EU’s antitrust decision of March 2004. Brussels, which has been battling with the group for almost seven years, believes this constitutes a fresh violation by Microsoft.
The draft ruling will be presented next Monday to national competition authorities, which must be consulted before every important decision by the regulator. Neelie Kroes, the EU competition commissioner, intends to deliver the ruling on July 12, people familiar with the case said.
Although Ms Kroes will need the backing of her fellow commissioners for a formal ruling and a fine against Microsoft, it is rare for draft decisions to be overturned at this stage.
Action against Microsoft would represent the first time the Commission has punished a company for failing to comply with one of its rulings.