EU To Levy More Fines Against Microsoft

European Commission to levy more fines against Microsoft due to noncompliance with EU antitrust order to share information with rivals.

(Berlin) The European Commission will levy more fines against software maker Microsoft Corp. because it has not complied with an EU antitrust order to share information with rivals, Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said Thursday.

"I can't imagine any other way," Kroes said in the German capital, where she and other officials were meeting with German politicians.

The final decision to fine the company will be made at the next Commission meeting on July 12. "It is on the agenda," she said.

National regulators must approve the amount of the fine when they meet on July 10. The Commission has threatened to fine Microsoft as much as 2 million euros ($2.6 million) a day -- backdated to Dec. 15 -- for failing to comply with the earlier ruling.

Kroes said she hasn't received opposition from any of the 25 European Union member states to her proposal to fine Microsoft. The AP reported Monday that competition authorities unanimously backed fining the company.

If companies "aren't complying with our regulations and rules, that needs to be corrected," Kroes said, adding that this applies "regardless of their origin and size."

Late last year, independent trustee Neil Barrett, a computer science professor, reported that 12,000 pages of documentation Microsoft supplied needed a drastic overhaul to make them workable.

Microsoft has said it is trying to fix problems with the technical information so that rivals can better work with its ubiquitous operating system. The company has said it has 300 people working full-time on a framework to supply the information, and that six of seven installments have been delivered.

"Microsoft is dedicating massive resources to meet the aggressive schedule and high-quality standards set by the trustee and the Commission in this process," the company said in a statement, reiterating comments from earlier this week. "Our engineers are working around the clock to meet the seventh and final delivery date for this project scheduled for July 18."

The company had no comment on Kroes' latest statements.

Kroes also said she will open a widespread antitrust investigation into the European telecommunications market starting next year, following similar probes into the European energy and financial services markets.

"We can't do it all at once," Kroes said. "Two inquiries are nearly finished ... the next one will be telecommunications."

Kroes said the telecommunications probe will be "just to check whether there is fair competition in the European market." She declined to point out any specific issues.

The Commission has in the past complained that former state telephone monopolies like Deutsche Telekom AG and France Telecom SA control 80 percent of European broadband connections, while U.S. telephone companies account for only 38 percent of subscribers there.


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