German gov't fines Microsoft for 'influencing' Office resale prices

This morning, Germany's Bundeskartellamt -- the anti-cartel department of the country's executive branch -- has issued a €9 million fine against Microsoft for what it describes as illegally and anti-competitively influencing the retail sales value of Office Home & Student Edition 2007.

It's no secret that Microsoft -- among many other manufacturers -- has provided rebates to resellers who sell software to verified students; this has been the case worldwide for the last few decades. But in an English-language statement this morning, the Bundeskartellamt says that when Microsoft has entered into such agreements with German resellers, the final retail price the two agree upon in advance, constitutes a form of price fixing...and that's illegal.

"Not every contact between supplier and retailer regarding resale prices constitutes an illegal concerted practice," reads this morning's statement. "However, this must not lead to a form of coordination where the supplier actively tries to coordinate the pricing activities of the retailer and thus retailer and supplier agree on future actions of the retailer. In the present case, this boundary has been crossed." The department says Microsoft has agreed to the fine.

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