Is Microsoft forcing customers to purchase its video conferencing app Teams?
That’s what a European Commission (EC) antitrust investigation hopes to determine.
The commission announced Thursday (July 27) it had begun a probe to determine if the tech giant had violated European Union (EU) competition rules by bundling Teams with its Office 265 and Microsoft 365 products.
“The Commission is concerned that Microsoft may be abusing and defending its market position in productivity software by restricting competition in the European Economic Area (‘EEA’) for communication and collaboration products,” the EC said in a news release.
In particular, the release added, the EC is worried that Microsoft is giving Teams a “distribution advantage” by not letting consumers choose whether to include access to that product when they subscribe to the company’s productivity suites.
The EC also says Microsoft “may have limited the interoperability between its productivity suites and competing offerings.”
Reached for comment by PYMNTS, a Microsoft spokesperson offered this statement:
“We respect the European Commission’s work on this case and take our own responsibilities very seriously. We will continue to cooperate with the Commission and remain committed to finding solutions that will address its concerns.”
Word of a possible EC investigation emerged earlier this month, following reports in May that Microsoft had told EU officials it would be willing to charge for Teams, offering customers two prices for its productivity suite, one with Teams and one without.
The EU had received complaints from companies such as Slack about Microsoft’s bundling of Teams, with Slack alleging in a 2020 complaint that Microsoft requires Office users to install the Teams software, blocks its removal and makes it impossible to work with competitors.
Microsoft debuted Teams in 2017, and saw the product take off as the COVID pandemic forced many companies to work remotely for the first time.
“Remote communication and collaboration tools like Teams have become indispensable for many businesses in Europe,” Margrethe Vestager, the EC’s executive vice-president in charge of competition policy, said in the news release.
“We must therefore ensure that the markets for these products remain competitive, and companies are free to choose the products that best meet their needs.”
The investigation is happening as the EC undertakes a number of other antitrust actions involving Big Tech companies.
Also this week, Meta offered to limit its use of advertising data to develop products that compete with advertisers in an attempt to counter the EU’s allegations that the social media giant had abused its market power.