The threat of millions of dollars in fines loomed larger for Microsoft Corp on Friday, after the European Commission told the company that it is still not complying with a two-year-old antitrust ruling.
The Commission also published previously secret documents relating to its appointed Microsoft compliance overseer, Trustee Neil Barrett, whose objectivity Microsoft had called into question a week earlier.
The European Commission has sent a letter to Microsoft setting out its preliminary view on how Microsoft is still not in compliance with its obligations under the March 2004 Commission decision, the Commission said in a statement.
The 2004 antitrust decision forced Microsoft to sell a version of Windows without the Media Player functionality, and to open the specifications to certain client-server interfaces, to level the playing field for competitors.
In December, following failed court challenges by Microsoft and an EC-imposed deadline, Barrett reviewed Microsoft’s interface documentation and found it totally unfit at this stage for its intended purpose.
Microsoft submitted revised documentation, and offered to open up some of its Windows source code for review, but Barrett’s review found these moves to be also lacking, according to the Commission.
Microsoft faces fines of up to two million euros (about $2.4m) per day for failing to comply with the remedies. The fines can reportedly be backdated to the day the company was found to be out of compliance.
The Commission said Friday that it also forwarded to Microsoft a report by Taeus Europe Ltd, a reverse engineering specialist, which apparently supports the Trustee’s position that the documentation is incomplete and inaccurate.
Microsoft’s position is that its documentation is more than adequate to comply with the remedies, and that the Commission has in the past wasted Microsoft’s time by changing its mind and dragged its feet.
Then, over a week ago, Microsoft claimed that recently released Commission documents showed that the Commission has been conducting its investigation of Microsoft’s compliance in secret collaboration with Microsoft adversaries.
This allegation was based on documentation showing the Commission urging Barrett, the Trustee, to consult with Microsoft’s competitors. On Friday, the EC published more documents, in an apparent effort to discredit these claims.
Documents establishing the role of the Trustee in black and white make clear that the Trustee, under the supervision of the Commission, has to monitor Microsoft’s compliance on his own initiative, the Commission said.
The Commission added that the Trustee must be in a position to gather views on compliance issues through contacts not only with Microsoft engineers, but also with potential beneficiaries of the remedy.
Microsoft continues to object to the 2004 Commission finding in the European courts. A hearing in that case is scheduled for later this month.