EU Starts Competition Probe Into Microsoft

The suspicions have now been confirmed: The EU Commission has officially confirmed that it has initiated a formal investigation against Microsoft. It is to be examined whether and to what extent the company has violated EU competition rules.

Has Slack been sidelined?

The case is about the bundling of the Teams communication platform with Office 365 or Microsoft 365. “The Commission fears that Microsoft is abusing and defending its market position in productivity software by increasing competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) for products for Communication and cooperation is restricted,” said a statement from Brussels.

In essence, this means that the antitrust authorities see evidence that Microsoft is giving its Teams platform an unlawful competitive advantage over competitors such as Slack by integrating the communication tool into the dominant Office platform.

Parallels to before

Anyone who has followed the history of Microsoft’s competition disputes with the antitrust authorities will see parallels to the earlier major proceedings. This was about the fact that Microsoft had given its Internet Explorer browser a breakthrough over the previously dominant competitor product Netscape Navigator by closely dovetailing it with the dominant Windows operating system.

In the new case, the EU Commission fears in particular that Microsoft Teams provides a sales advantage by not allowing customers to choose whether or not to have access to the product when subscribing to the Office suite. Furthermore, it should be checked whether the interoperability between the Office applications and competing offers has been restricted in order to make teams look better.

“Tools for remote communication and collaboration such as Teams have become indispensable for many companies in Europe. We must therefore ensure that the markets for these products remain competitive and that companies have the opportunity to choose the products that best suit their needs. That’s why we’re investigating whether Microsoft’s pairing of its productivity suites with Teams might violate EU competition rules,” said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

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