MEPs Question Microsoft's Eligibility for Gov't Projects

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European Parliament members are asking if Microsoft's antitrust violations make the company ineligible to compete for government contracts.

Two members of the Green Party sent a letter on April 9 to the European Commission to check whether the company's past antitrust violations throw it into conflict with existing financial and procurement regulations.

The letter was sent by Heide R�hle of Germany and Alain Lipietz of France. The Commission, which has not responded yet, is allowed a few weeks to reply.

The letter asks whether Article 93 of the European Union's Financial Regulation and public procurement directives would apply to Microsoft.

Article 93 says that candidates for procurement projects should be excluded if they have been convicted of an offense concerning their professional conduct by a judicial authority or if a contractor can justify excluding them based on "grave professional misconduct."

Caroline Lucas, a European Parliament member for southeast England for the Green Party, said that Microsoft's exclusion from government contracts would be "unprecedented" and that it doesn't appear the question has been raised despite the antitrust actions.

If Microsoft should be excluded, "we think the E.U. should stand by its own regulations," Lucas said.

A Microsoft representative contacted in Brussels said the company had no comment.

Microsoft was found in violation of antitrust regulations in 2004 by the Commission and was fined €497 million (US$786 million). Microsoft was ordered to sell a version of its operating system without its Windows Media Player and also reveal interoperability information for its Windows workgroup servers.

The Commission further fined Microsoft €899 million in late February for not complying with the ruling until October 2007.

The Commission is still taking a hard look at Microsoft. Opera filed a complaint with the Commission in December 2007, charging that Microsoft stifles competition by tying its Internet Explorer browser with its operating system.

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems, a Brussels trade group, has also asked the Commission to look into concerns about interoperability with Microsoft products.

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