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EU’s Kroes eyes ‘Structural Remedies’ after Microsoft case

By: | at 08:00 PM | International Trade  

Microsoft Corp.‘s (MSFT) failure to comply with a European antitrust ruling is forcing regulators to consider more drastic “structural remedies” in future cases, a transcript published by the European Commission reveals.

European Union Antitrust Commissioner Neelie Kroes made the comment in response to a question on the Microsoft case during a meeting sponsored by the American Bar Association in Washington on April 20.

When asked what the Commission has learned “about remedies in refusal to supply cases” from its experiences in the Microsoft case, she replied, “We may have to look for alternative, more effective remedies.” She went on to say she would consider under which circumstances “structural remedies” - presumably a breakup of the company - “would be appropriate.”

The European Commission has never before broken up any company.

Kroes sounded increasingly frustrated by Microsoft.

“This is a highly exceptional circumstance - in 50 years of EU antitrust policy, we have never before encountered a company that has refused to comply with a Commission Decision,” she said in the transcript.

Separately, Microsoft said it has responded to European regulators’ charge that the software giant is defying a 2004 antitrust decision by setting too high prices for information on its server software.

The 2004 decision, in which the commission fined the company EUR497 million and ordered it to change some of its business practices, requires Microsoft to offer rivals key technical information on “reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms.

The commission in March said Microsoft is asking for unreasonably high licensing fees for its technical information.

The commission later confirmed it had received Microsoft’s reply. It said that it would consider the company’s arguments “and decide whether to impose a daily penalty.”

The commission last year fined Microsoft EUR280.5 million for not providing technical information that rivals need to write programs that run smoothly with Windows-based machines, another part of the 2004 decision it said Microsoft defied.

Microsoft is appealing that penalty and the commission’s original 2004 decision at an EU court in Luxembourg. (Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)