Europe reserves right to resume MS contract enquiry

So Microsoft had better be good in its ISP dealings

The European Union has finally approved the ISP contracts Microsoft implemented at the beginning of last year. But the European Commission has reserved the right to reopen its investigation if any future change "in the factual or legal situation affected any essential aspect... that warranted a further enquiry." To some extent that's a warning to Microsoft to watch its contractual language, but it's also a nod towards the US. While Microsoft and the DoJ have been locked in mortal combat, Europe has sat on the sidelines as part of a 'carve-up' arrangement with the US authorities. The deal between the two is intended to avoid duplication and/or clashes of investigations. In the case of Microsoft, the US DoJ is lead member, while the Commission's policy is wait and see. If the DoJ wins, Europe will certainly at least check through Microsoft's contracts again, referring to whatever remedies are imposed as it does so. If Microsoft wins, Europe will quite possibly take its ball away and mount a huge investigation of its own. Under the agreements now approved by the Commission Microsoft effectively runs co-marketing deals with ISPs, where the ISP is in a list of recommended access suppliers and in exchange pays a bounty for new subscribers, and promotes Internet Explorer. This kind of arrangement in any event seems to be on the wane; Microsoft witnesses in the DoJ trial protested the company didn't make any money out of it, and Microsoft has ceded some control of the recommended ISP list, at least to the major PC companies. The contracts have also been somewhat de-fanged, as ISPs now won't have to pay penalties if they fail to make their Internet Explorer distribution quotas. This itself concerns Microsoft less than previously, at least for as long as IE remains firmly bolted to Windows. ®

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