Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for July 20th, 2012


with 4 comments

Monsieur Petit seems to have abandoned this blog in order to share his thoughts on an exclusive basis with US media. On Wednesday he was quoted again in The New York Times, this time in relation to yet another a new investigation on Microsoft’s non-compliance with a Commission’s decision.

As you may know, the Commission issued a statement announcing an investigation over Microsoft’s possible non-compliance with the 2009 commitment decision which obliged it to include a brouser choice screen to enable users to pick a browser instead of using the pre-installed one (until then Internet Explorer).

Microsoft has also issued a statement apologizing and explaining that:

“We have fallen short in our responsibility to do this. Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the Browser Choice Screen (BCS) software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7. The BCS software has been delivered as it should have been to PCs running the original version of Windows 7, as well as the relevant versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista. However, while we believed when we filed our most recent compliance report in December 2011 that we were distributing the BCS software to all relevant PCs as required, we learned recently that we’ve missed serving the BCS software to the roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1”.

The Commission has anticipated that it might impose “severe” penalties.

Keith Hylton (Boston University) has stated that the Commission is overreacting because “there may be a few people on the planet, living deep in forests on the Marshall Islands, who are not already aware that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is not the only browser available”.

The well-informed and ironic reader who has conveyed Mr. Hylton’s statement to us responds that “whoever at Microsoft was not aware that they had to include a browser choice screen in Windows must also live deep in the forests in the Marshall islands, and whoever told the Commission in December that such error had not happened must live in the woods next door”.

We lack any precise information about this investigation but it’s hardly conceivable that Microsoft would do this on purpose, so, just as Microsoft says, this is most certainly due to an unfortunate mistake.

In any event, this story shows that antitrust law does perhaps not worry some companies as much as we usually think. Most importantly, the fact that nobody had noticed until now that 28 million copies of Windows had been sold since February 2011 without the browser choice screen says something about how compliance with antitrust commitments is monitored…

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

20 July 2012 at 1:43 pm