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EU's MS antitrust process to include public consultation

Prelim ruling this year, final next

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The European Union's much delayed Microsoft antitrust case will crank back into action late this year, and come to a final decision next year, according to a Reuters report. Life is frankly too short to try to remember how many times the European Commission has been poised to rule on Microsoft "soon," but this time around it does look a little like we're approaching the final roadmap.

Provided Judge CKK makes her own move in the US action soon, that is. Philip Lowe, director general of the Commission's competition directorate, was talking to reporters on Friday, and the key seems to be him saying: "It is not yet clear which problems will be cleared up in the States." While this is not particularly surprising, given that it's been obvious the Commission's been waiting for shoes to drop on the other side of the pond for some time now, but it seems reasonable to take that as virtual confirmation that Lowe is waiting for a conclusion in the US, and that Europe will then cut its cloth accordingly.

Lowe, according to Reuters, identified leveraging from one market to another and product tying as issues, and indicated that the theory of monopoly leveraging as savaged here by DoJ head Charles James was being pursued by the Commission.

Of particular interest, we feel, is the nature of next year's phase two of the ruling. After the preliminary decision this year, the final one will come once there has been a period of public consultation. The Commission ordinarily just strings companies up without bothering to ask the people, so this looks like a novel innovation. ®

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