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IBM offered to give technical information and certain spare parts to other companies that maintain IBM's mainframe hardware and software

It seems 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 competitors.

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 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 revenues. 

"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.

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By BZDTemp on 9/20/2011 2:01:43 PM , Rating: 4
Sorry but after the whole Internet Explorer browser debacle you can pretty much give up on trying to convince us some fair and balanced approach is used in the way EU deals with American companies.

For sure the browser thing took far to long but even before it ended with the "EU Browser Choice Update" the case had made an impact in how Microsoft were going about things. Had there not been a case the situation could have been very different. Also remember it is not only the EU that fought Microsoft about this - may I suggest reading about Netscape vs. Microsoft.

Worth nothing is also that the EU tries to make sure all companies in the EU operate according to the laws. It may mean educating big companies using their market position like Microsoft and Intel but it can also be about companies forming cartels to control the prices. Some of the companies fined are Shell, Unilever, ThyssenKrupp, Siemens, Heineken...

Oh, and the EU fines may look huge but they aren't compared to the budgets of huge companies.

Umm browsers are FREE, so no rising prices. There's like 5 to choose from, plenty innovation there. Can you realistically justify how the EU treated MS in this whole thing?

Yes, were it not for the EU case things would have been very different. Today it may look like we don't need the whole thing but remember the case actually started back in 1998 when Sun asked the EU commission to investigate and the browsers is also just one element in the whole case.

Also browsers are not FREE. They may not come with a bill but someone is paying and you're then paying indirectly fx. when you buy an OS.

Same thing with Google. Every service they offer is free. It's kind of hard convincing me there's some public danger here when they never directly sell to the end user, but instead profit from add revenue. And they have no monopoly in any of these areas.

I'm sorry but you're not looking deep enough.

Take Google - just like with magazines, tv-entertainment, newspapers the product is not really what you use/watch the product is the viewer because it's all about selling adds. So now imagine you'd like to advertise it then becomes hard to get around buying some adds from Google, that is unless you want to target users of social media in which case it becomes hard not to buy add space on Facebook.

Now you might say why care if advertisers are having to pay a little extra because there is little competition in that market. However high advertising prices will mean consumer goods cost more and/or less choice because some companies will advertise less and small companies may never make it to market because the required investment is to big.

Monopolies only benefit those controlling the monopolies. Everyone else will see the downside sooner or later.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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