Slack Files Complaint Against Microsoft for Alleged Tying
On July 20, 2020 Slack announced that it had filed a complaint against Microsoft before the EU Commission. Slack claims that Microsoft abusively has tied Microsoft’s Teams into its Office program thus harming competitors such as Slack. Under EU Law, dominant undertakings are prevented from making sales of separate products together compulsory except where justified by way of exception. Given EU Commissioner Vestager’s role in and emphasis on the digital market, competition and consumer choice, the EU Commission may well start an investigation.
Securing A Level Playing Field…
If so, it would not be the first investigation Microsoft is facing with respect to bundling its software. Looking back, the inclusion of Microsoft’s Media Player and its Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system comes to mind. The EU Commission has held in past that Microsoft had levelled its dominance in the market for computer software so as to extend to the Media Player and thus had precluded others from competing with Microsoft on the merits. In the EU Commission’s eyes, the bundling had distorted the level playing field. This finding resulted in Microsoft having to pay substantial fines (also for other conduct held to be abusive and non-compliance with orders) of more than 1,3 billion Euro in the aggregate in Brussels for bundling its Media Player with Windows. Eventually, Microsoft had to give in and had to provide customers with an easy choice between the Microsoft universe and competitors’ complementing and competing products.
…or Forcing Coke to Sell Pepsi?
It remains to be seen whether this will also be the case with Teams and whether the EU Commission – in Bill Gate’s view – will be “requiring Coca-Cola to include three cans of Pepsi with every six pack it sells” yet again. The game is on and the stakes are high.