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EU: New Fines if Microsoft Docs Not Turned Over

EU says Microsoft still short of supplying data to comply with 2004 order.

(Brussels, Belgium) Microsoft Corp. has still not supplied the "complete and accurate" documentation necessary to comply with a 2004 antitrust order, European Union regulators said Wednesday. They warned new fines could be imposed unless the world's biggest software maker supplies full information by Nov. 23.

The European Commission, which fined Microsoft 280.5 million euros ($357 million) in July for not providing the technical information, said it expects "the remaining omissions and deficiencies" to be remedied quickly.

"Our patience is finite," said EU spokesman Jonathan Todd. "Until we have the whole set of documents, it's worth nothing."

Microsoft said it had already made "very significant progress" in improving the information it has given regulators that aims to help rivals make server software that works smoothly with its desktop operating system Windows.

"We stand ready to do any additional work that is required to comply with the Commission's decision," Microsoft said in a statement.

But the EU's executive arm said that what Microsoft has done so far is not enough and there are still problems with the technical manual that will eventually be turned over to rivals to check before Microsoft can get the all-clear.

The Commission said it wants "the remaining omissions and deficiencies in the technical documentation to be remedied by Nov. 23" so that all the material will be available by the end of November for potential licensees to review.

Regulators must then decide if Microsoft has finally obeyed its 2004 ruling that found the company had abused its monopoly by deliberately withholding technical data from rivals. That decision would be based on comments from potential licensees and advice from an independent trustee, computer scientist Neil Barrett, on whether that information is "operational."

"Should Microsoft continue to fail to comply, the amount of the daily penalty payment to which Microsoft could be subject would be increased from up to 2 million euros ($2.56 million) to up to 3 million euros ($3.85 million) per day with effect from July 31, 2006," the Commission warned.

EU antitrust chief Neelie Kroes told The Guardian newspaper that her patience had run out, some three and a half years after Microsoft was ordered to hand over the data.

"I don't have eternal life," she said in an interview published Wednesday. "I am not impressed if someone says 90 percent of the information is already there when we need 100 percent. It's a jigsaw and some parts are missing."

The EU fined Microsoft a record 497 million euros ($613 million) in March 2004 and told it to share interoperability information with rivals and put on sale a copy of Windows without Media Player software.

Regulators said Microsoft had committed to and missed a number of deadlines for supplying "complete and accurate specifications," the last on July 19.

Microsoft said it had responded quickly and completely to all requests and queries on the technical documentation since the July deadline.

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