The European Union (EU) has not been a fan of Microsoft's business policies. After alleging that the software giant engaged in price fixing and other anticompetitive processes, the European Commission (EC), the EU's business regulatory body, handed down two massive fines; the first for $690M USD and the second for a record $1.4B USD. Meanwhile, the EC launched two new investigations seeking more possible damages.
Now Microsoft has announced that it plans to fight the latest $1.4B USD ruling. Microsoft appealed to the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg on Friday, in hopes that it can get the fine reduced or dropped. Microsoft's past battles with EC have been less than successful; it appealed the previous $690M USD fine, only to be denied.
Microsoft spokesman Jesse Verstraete announced the move in an email Friday. He says that Microsoft's goal is to seek clarity from the courts.
While Microsoft faces a steep uphill battle in getting the ruling appealed, it might not be hopeless. Philip Marsden, a competition lawyer and senior research fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, an non-involved party, states, "There's a fairly good record of the court lowering fines the commission has made upon appeal. It's the company's legal right to appeal such fines, particularly with respect to orders regarding compliance with such a controversial and vague set of requirements."
The trouble for Microsoft started in 2004 when EC delivered an antitrust order to Microsoft. The order demanded Microsoft provide its competitors' servers the ability to connect to the Windows platform. In order to facilitate this, it ordered Microsoft to charge reasonable royalties for network connectivity information.
After thorough investigation, the EC found that Microsoft had failed to comply with the ruling last year, bringing the first in a series of fines for the company. The company was the first in 50 years of EU competition policy to be found in violation of an antitrust ruling. To date the result has been 1.68B € in fines total ($2.6B USD).
A spokesman for the EC, Jonathan Todd defend the decisions, saying that the courts clear upheld that Microsoft had refused to comply with the ruling for 3 years. Says Todd, "The commission is confident that the decision to impose the fine is legally sound."
Microsoft has expressed in the past a desire to resolve its legal problems with the EU. It has said it will comply with the antitrust ruling by further dropping its licensing fees. Further, it is trying to show support for open document standards, to help defend itself against one of the two current investigation by the EC, which is delving into whether Microsoft engaged in anticompetitive behavior in the word processing market.