The ongoing antitrust battle between Microsoft Corp and the European Commission is becoming increasingly fractious with the software giant accusing the EC of violating its right of defense by withholding information, and breaking its own procedural rules.
The Financial Times reported on Thursday that it had seen a five-page letter sent from Microsoft to the EC complaining that it is withholding many of the documents used by the competition commission to reach its decision to threaten the company with a daily fine of 2m euros ($2.4m).
We have great respect for the Commission as an institution, but we are very concerned about the lack of transparency in this procedure, said a Microsoft spokesperson in response to a request for comment on the FT story.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes announced in late December that the EC would begin fining the company for not providing adequate documentation that would allow non-Microsoft work group servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers.
Microsoft was last month given an extended deadline of February 15 to respond to the threat but says that it is unable to do so while the EC is withholding documentation, according to the FT report. It states that Microsoft has only been granted access to 29 out of 100 relevant documents, and 25 of those were part of correspondence between Microsoft and the EC.
A statement from the EC’s competition spokesperson indicated that it was premature for Microsoft to claim violation of its rights given that correspondence between Microsoft and the independent hearing officer is ongoing.
Microsoft was threatened with the fine after a scathing review of Microsoft’s technical documentation work from the EC’s monitoring trustee, computer science expert Professor Neil Barrett.
His report concluded: any programmer or programming team seeking to use the technical documentation for a real development exercise would be wholly and completely unable to proceed on the basis of the documentation.
Microsoft responded late last month with surprise plans to license the source code to its Windows Server operating system to developers and competitors in an attempt to move the discussion beyond what the company’s general counsel, Brad Smith, called arcane arguments about documentation accuracy.
The EC has been unhappy about the technical documentation provided by Microsoft for the communications protocols it was obligated to license to third parties after it was found guilty of breaking European Union competition law in March 2004. It has yet to officially respond to Microsoft Windows licensing plan.