The European Commission on Thursday threatened Microsoft with millions of euros in new fines in a long-running antitrust dispute, saying the company was demanding “unreasonable” royalties from rivals seeking to link their software to the Windows operating system.
The commission issued a “statement of objections,” asking Microsoft to respond to a complaint that it was still balking at complying with a decision three years ago that the company had abused its dominant market position.
“In the 50 years of European antitrust policy, it’s the first time we’ve been confronted with a company that has failed to comply with an antitrust decision,” Jonathan Todd, spokesman for the competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, said in Brussels.
Microsoft objected to that characterization, saying it had been trying to cooperate. Brad Smith, the Microsoft general counsel, said Brussels gave Microsoft no feedback on its proposed royalties for licensing the software “protocols” to outsiders until the commission’s news release Thursday. The 2004 decision in the case included only one sentence on royalty rates, he said.
“We believe we have been fair and reasonable in setting the proposed protocol prices,” Smith said during a conference call from Redmond, Washington, where the company is based. “It’s sometimes very difficult to read the tea leaves and know exactly what to do when the decision is so complicated and the directions so brief.”