Microsoft Accuses EU of Collusion

Microsoft's attack on the European Union's handling of its antitrust case grew Thursday, as the company filed a formal complaint alleging the European Commission colluded with rivals and hid critical documents. The move comes one week after Microsoft opened some of its court filings to the public.

The Redmond company says it has obtained documents that show the EU regulator had "inappropriate" communication with computer science professor Neil Barrett, who testified that technical documentation provided by Microsoft to comply with the March 2004 antitrust ruling was not adequate.

Microsoft also alleges that the EU Commission secretly met with officials from Sun Microsystems, IBM, Oracle and Novell.

"The commission and the trustee cannot fulfill their respective roles as neutral regulator and independent monitor if they are actively and secretly working with Microsoft's adversaries," Microsoft wrote in its letter Thursday.

As part of the antitrust ruling, Microsoft had been ordered to sell a version of Windows without its Media Player software, as well as divulge portions of Windows Server protocols. A December Statement of Objections from the EU threatened Microsoft with fines of 2 million euros per day for not complying with the latter requirement.

Microsoft has long asserted that it is in full compliance, and went so far as to release portions of the Windows Server source code in January. However, the EU said it never asked for the complete code and Microsoft "should not consider this a solution."

The company is now calling into question the assessment that its technical documentation was not up to snuff.

"While the documents provided do not include the direct correspondence between the commission and its technical experts, they show that the commission, the trustee, and Microsoft's adversaries were secretly collaborating throughout the fall of 2005 in a manner inconsistent with the commission's role as neutral regulator and the Trustee's role as independent monitor," commented Microsoft associate general counsel Horacio Gutierrez.

The European Commission said it could not comment on what it called a "supplementary response" to the charges against Microsoft. A hearing has been set for the end of the month to decide whether the company has complied adequately with the ruling.

If Microsoft is found not in compliance at that point, fines would be applied from December 15, 2005 and the date of the decision. The company could end up paying an additional 100 to 200 million euros in fines on top of the 497 million euros it was ordered to pay initially.

Microsoft's appeal of the original decision will be heard by the European Court of First Instance in April.

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