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EC retires the Microsoft watchdog

Monitoring trustee gets laid off

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The European Commission has relaxed the requirements of the 2004 anti-trust order against Microsoft - the software giant no longer needs its behaviour watched by a full-time “monitoring trustee”.

Brussels said it no longer needed a permanent observer to ensure Microsoft was obeying a European Union order to share technical information with its rivals that would help them make their products interoperable with MS servers.

“In light of changes in Microsoft’s behaviour, the increased opportunity for third parties to exercise their rights directly before national courts and experience gained since the adoption of the 2004 decision, the Commission no longer requires a full time monitoring trustee to assess Microsoft’s compliance,” said the EC.

It said that assistance from technical consultants on an “ad hoc” basis would be sought instead.

In 2004 the Commission ordered Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without a bundled media player and it had to appoint a trustee, Professor Neil Barrett, to oversee its continued compliance with Brussels’ demands.

Microsoft was fined €1.68bn ($2.13bn) by the EC after it found the company guilty of abusing its dominant position in the PC and workgroup operating system market.

The firm mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge against the anti-trust wing of the EC in 2007 when it claimed regulators had forced it to hand over intellectual property to its competitors.

In a separate anti-trust case in January this year, the Commission accused Microsoft of stifling competition by bundling its Internet Explorer web browser with the Windows operating system.

Redmond was given eight weeks to reply to the charges. ®

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