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The Case of Microsoft: Why Software Monocultures Also Play a Role Beyond Antitrust Considerations

 |  September 18, 2023

By: Dennis-Kenji Kipker (University of Bremen/Kluwer Competition)

After the rumor mill had been bubbling for weeks in advance, it became official at the end of July 2023: the European Commission announced on its website the initiation of official antitrust proceedings against the US software giant Microsoft due to possible anti-competitive behaviour in relation to Microsoft Teams.

The legal background of the EU Commission is the fear that Microsoft, by bundling Teams and products from the Microsoft Office segment, could abuse and defend its market position in productivity software and, thereby, unlawfully restrict competition in the European Economic Area as far as communication and collaboration products are concerned. These legal concerns were based in particular on the distribution advantage Microsoft gains by not allowing its customers to choose whether to use Microsoft Teams or alternative products for virtual communication. The EU Commission’s investigation under competition law is based on Article 102 TFEU, which prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position. Such a dominant position could in particular affect trade between the Member States and, thus, lead to distortions in the internal market. On the one hand, the legal outcome of these European antitrust proceedings will certainly be eagerly awaited – but on the other hand, Microsoft’s actions also have implications for cybersecurity compliance beyond the antitrust perspective, which will be described in more detail below…