Published on mayo 22nd, 2009 | by admin0
Microsoft Antitrust Hearing in Europe Canceled.
BERLIN — Microsoft and the European Commission have canceled the only hearing planned in an antitrust investigation into the company’s Internet browser because of a dispute over the attendance of European regulators serving as advisers.
As a result, the commission, which began its inquiry after a complaint by Opera, a small browser maker in Norway, will reach its decision and levy a fine based on written statements from Microsoft and its adversaries.Microsoft decided against the opportunity to give oral evidence in the case after it was unable to persuade the commission to move the meeting, scheduled for June 3 through 5, so that it did not conflict with a global antitrust conference in Zurich that draws European antitrust regulators.
Dave Heiner, a Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel, said the conflict would have prevented some regulators from attending the hearings as observers and advisers.
“It appears many of the most influential commission and national competition officials with the greatest interest in our case will be in Zurich and so unable to attend our hearing,” Mr. Heiner wrote on his blog on the Microsoft Web site.
The regulators attendance was important, Microsoft said, because they may have been more sympathetic to the company’s argument that the bundling of Internet Explorer in Windows did not represent a breach of European law. The commission typically consults with the national regulators before issuing sanctions and fines in the case.
The commission ruled in 2004 that Microsoft had unfairly used Windows, which powers more than 90 percent of the world’s computers, to benefit its own media player and computer server software. The company ended up paying more than $1 billion in fines and penalties fighting the inquiry over nine years.
Jonathan Todd, a commission spokesman, said the panel was puzzled by Microsoft’s request. He said the hearing would have been attended by Neelie Kroes, the competition commissioner for the European Union and ranking executive. Usually, the hearings are conducted only by a staff hearing officer.
“The commission would have been represented at the highest level by Mrs. Kroes,” Mr. Todd said.
Thomas Vinje, a lawyer representing Opera and other Microsoft adversaries, said he suspected Microsoft was trying to win some sort of delay.
“I have never seen E.U. national competition officials, who are observers, play a significant role in such cases,” Mr. Vinje said.
The development comes little more than a week after the commission fined the computer chip maker Intel a record 1.06 billion euros, or $1.45 billion, for offering rebates to computer makers and retailers in exchange for exclusive sales and distribution agreements. Intel is appealing the decision.
Any delay in the Microsoft case could have extended the outcome beyond the reach of Ms. Kroes, whose future as the Europe’s top competition official will depend on the outcome of June 7 European elections.
Mrs. Kroes has said she wants to issue a decision in the Microsoft case before her current term, which could last through the end of the year, expires.
But that will depend on the June elections, and whether the current commission president, José Manuel Barroso of Portugual, is re-elected and whether he reappoints Ms. Kroes, a Dutch lawyer.
Saludos, GAby Menta