as if the European Union (EU) is making a sport out of probing tech companies
and charging them billions in fines. For instance, the EU slammed Microsoft with a 1.4 billion fine back in 2008 for violating
antitrust laws. The EU has repeatedly attacked the company before and
after that. In addition, the EU announced last week that it is still
investigating Google's search dominance, saying that the search giant may have abused
International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) was thrown into two EU antitrust
investigations last July, where competing suppliers of mainframe maintenance
services accused IBM of "discriminatory behavior" in refusing to
supply such inputs required for maintenance.
The second investigation, which examined whether IBM was unfairly tying
its mainframe hardware with its operating system, has recently been closed.
A preliminary assessment for the first investigation by the EU found that IBM's
procedures "may amount to a constructive refusal to supply these
inputs." The EU's executive Commission added, "IBM does not agree
with the Commission's preliminary assessment. It has nevertheless offered
commitments...to meet the Commission's competition concerns."
IBM's offering of concessions could settle the EU's investigation and allow it
to dodge any fines or antitrust infringement findings.
IBM offered to give technical information and certain spare parts to other
companies that maintain IBM's mainframe hardware and software under specific,
non-discriminatory terms, according to Reuters.
The concessions would last for five years, and now, the EU says third party
companies have one month to discuss the proposals. If the proposals are
accepted, IBM will not be fined. But if the EU finds that IBM committed
antitrust infringement, it may have to pay fines of up to 10 percent of global
"I commend IBM's readiness to address our concerns about fair competition
in the market for large computers which are crucial for the functioning of
today's economy," said Joaquin Almunia, EU competition commissioner.