US gov questions EC MS ruling

History may judge it 'foolish'

The US government has again questioned the way the EC chose to punish Microsoft for anti-competitive practices.

Hew Pate, US assistant attorney-general for anti-trust, said: "it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between good, hard competition and anti-competitive conduct." Pate said this difficulty is one reason why US regulators prefer to attack companies taking affirmative action such as exclusive contracts rather than trying to identify anti-competitive behaviour. He warned that forward-looking rulings on products could often look foolish when viewed by history.

Pate noted in his speech that regulations directed at opening up state-controlled monopolies were likely to be less well suited to dealing with companies that have grown up independently. He has previously described the EC decision to force Microsoft to unbundle its Media Player as likely to "chill" competition.

But he also used his speech to congratulate Competition Commissioner Mario Monti on the successes of his term in office and "raising the stature of competition policy and promoting a culture of competition".

Microsoft is appealing the decision which hit them with a €497m fine and ruling to offer a version of Windows without the Media Player. Monti, quoted in the FT, said: "We feel comfortable with the decision and look forward with confidence to the likely court proceedings." The case is being heard by the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg.

You can read more of Pate's speech here ®

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