Microsoft ruling may not bolster Europe's new case

A landmark court ruling which last year backed the European Commission's last competition action against Microsoft may not be as helpful in its current action as has been widely thought, according to a competition lawyer.

The commission's 2004 decision to fine Microsoft €497m was backed by the Court of the First Instance of the European Communities (CFI) and the judgment is widely regarded as having strengthened the commission's hand for cases it has subsequently launched. But an analysis of the decision by competition lawyer Adrian Wood of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, found that the case offers fewer comforts to the commission than many have assumed.

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So in other words the Microsoft case was an individual case and there still isn't any firm outline as to what constitutes anti-competitive business practices. That's hardly surprising given the incredibly complex nature of the matter, though that doesn't mean the Microsoft case had any less merit to it (that is far from what the article states).

I hope that people here don't try to manipulate this to suggest that the EC was wrong or was simply trying to extort money. It's quite clear from many articles on the subject that Microsoft behaved in an anti-competitive way - the only question is the degree in which it did and whether the fine was a reasonable punishment. Considering that companies like Microsoft tend to simply through their money around it's good that the EC was able to stand up to that and not be held off by appeals and bribery.

Microsoft's action were illegal in Europe. I don't care whether they are acceptable in the US because the two governments have different laws and different philosophies.

... the only question is ... whether the fine was a reasonable punishment.

The answer to that is to look at the precedents for fines levied in other anti-competition cases, and you will find that the Microsoft fine was way WAY out of line.

You can spin this all you want, but in the end this massively excessive fine still amounts to legal extortion.

Prove me wrong! Give me a precedent where any company was fined even a tenth of what Microsoft was fined for a similar offence. But I doubt that you can. If one existed, we would have all heard of it by now.