Microsoft Faces EU Anti-Trust Probe

By Agence France-Presse The European Union Aug. 6 gave U.S. software giant Microsoft Corp. a "last opportunity" to answer charges that it has unfairly crushed competitors or face the prospect of fines and enforced changes to its ways. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said the interim findings of a four-year anti-trust investigation showed Microsoft guilty of squelching rivals to the Windows Media Player and to its low-end servers. The Commission said it had sent Microsoft a "statement of objections," explaining the findings and recommending remedies such as stripping Media Player from the Windows operating system and revealing product secrets for its servers. Tying Media Player to all Windows operating systems "weakens competition on the merits, stifles product innovation, and ultimately reduces consumer choice," said Tilman Lueder, a spokesman for EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti. Microsoft, which last year settled a long-running anti-trust case with the U.S. government, now has one month to respond to the Commission's statement. Microsoft's lead lawyer on the EU case, Horacio Gutierrez, played down the prospect of fines as being "standard in every statement of objections." "We will do what we can to learn from the statement of objections what the Commission's concerns are," he said. Adding to Gutierrez' comments, Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said, "We will not speculate on possible outcomes or suggested remedies of the commission but will continue to focus our efforts on responding to the commission's concerns. Microsoft takes this investigation very seriously and continues to work hard to maintain a dialogue that will allow a positive resolution to the commission's concerns." Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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