Germany has set its sights on Microsoft as it opens proceedings to determine if Microsoft’s business in the country can be subject to special abuse measures, aka the German Competition Act, due to the company’s sprawling digital ecosystem.
President of the Bundeskartellamt, Andreas Mundt addressed German’s preliminary investigative probe into Microsoft with the following,
With Windows and its Office products Microsoft has had a long-standing and very strong position with regard to operating systems and office software. Based on this, the company has continuously expanded its product range both for business customers and consumers. More recently, we have seen a strong increase in the importance of the cloud services Azure and OneDrive, which are often linked to other Microsoft applications, and the resounding success of Teams, a software for video conferences and collaborative working. In addition, Microsoft is also active in other areas, including gaming with its Xbox, career networks with its service LinkedIn or internet searching with its search engine Bing. Most recently, the company has attracted attention with the integration of AI applications. In light of this, there are good reasons to examine whether Microsoft is of paramount significance for competition across markets. Such a finding would allow us to take action at an early stage and prohibit possible anti-competitive practices.
It’s unclear at this time if Mundt is flexing some of the newly imbued powers given to the FCO to go after more antitrust cases but there are reviews of Apple, Amazon, Google and Meta currently underway as well.
It should be noted that the FCO is taking the formal step of investigating Microsoft but not actually filing an antitrust claim against the company, and will most likely consult with the European Commission and other regulatory bodies in the region before issuing any official antitrust complaint.
Today’s decision to initiate a proceeding does not yet entail a proceeding to assess specific practices employed by Microsoft. If complaints or other information suggest that there are indications of Microsoft engaging in potentially anti-competitive practices, a separate decision will have to be issued in this matter – also in consultation with the European Commission and possibly other competition authorities.
It’s also unclear what Microsoft has done specifically that may have sparked the FCO’s investigation into the company, but some speculate that it could involve the almost yearlong Activision Blizzard buyout or rumors of the company already applying a heavy hand in regards to data restrictions on 3rd parties looking to jump into the AI chatbot field recently.
Whatever the reason, Microsoft joins several other big names under the FCO microscope and with as many moving parts as it has currently, a formal complaint could become an inevitability.