Blizzard of documents dumped on Europe MS probe

It's all in there somewhere, right...

From what Microsoft lawyer John Frank said yesterday in Brussels, it seems that the European Commission is about to be buried in boxes of documents as part of its enquiry into the complaint lodged by Sun, and probably others. Frank said the EC would be getting "boxes and boxes of information" in response to the "very broad questions" that had been asked, and was keen to emphasise that the case was at a very early stage. It's not an uncommon practice for Microsoft to attempt to overwhelm the processing capability of officials. So far, the DGIV Commissioner must have approved the formal opening of the case, and the present stage is a fact-finding exercise, with DGIV having sent Microsoft an Article 11 letter seeking information. If it is not satisfied, it has powers under Article 14 to carry out dawn raids at any or all of Microsoft's offices in the EU, and to seize documents. The next step will then be for DGIV to prepare a Statement of Objections, to which Microsoft may make a written reply, a procedure that normally would take around two months. An oral hearing then follows, and before a decision is reached, there must be consultation with an advisory committee of member states. It is possible but unlikely that Sun has requested Interim Measures - in effect a request for an injunction - which is allowed for urgent cases. If there were a settlement in the case brought by the DoJ, this would not affect this EC case, although it is conceivable that Sun could withdraw its complaint. Frank, who is the Paris-based director of law and corporate affairs, claimed yesterday that Sun was complaining as a competitive tactic, rather than for any real business reason. ®

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