MS ANTITRUST: EC could levy hefty fine

The European Commission could fine Microsoft Corp. up to 10 per cent of its global annual sales for monopoly offences, the commission said this week. Microsoft is still committing the monopoly abuses it was first accused of in 1998, the EC said in a preliminary ruling in its long-running antitrust case against the company.

The commission has sent an updated statement of objections to Microsoft, reiterating previous accusations that it has leveraged its dominance in the market for computer operating systems into the markets for server systems and media-player software.

The latest statement also outlines remedies the commission wants to impose on Microsoft to ensure that competition in these markets is freed up. Microsoft is studying the new statement, a spokesman said. The fact that the commission believes the monopoly abuse is still ongoing makes a large fine likely.

Under European Union law the gravity of an antitrust offence is determined in part by how long it lasts. However, it has never fined a company the maximum 10 per cent of sales.