European Commission Scraps Microsoft Monitor

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Five years after its landmark antitrust ruling against Microsoft, the European Commission has decided it no longer needs to monitor the company's compliance with the ruling, it said Wednesday.

In addition to fining the company €497 million (US$794 million at the time) for monopoly abuse, Europe's top antitrust authority imposed remedies including the order to share interoperability information so that rivals could build software that works smoothly with the near ubiquitous Windows OS.

Microsoft's failure to honor this order forced the Commission to appoint a monitoring trustee, Neil Barrett, a British computer scientist at Cranfield University in England in 2005, to ensure that it did.

Barrett reported directly to competition commissioner Neelie Kroes and often criticized Microsoft's for failing to cooperate. The Commission fined Microsoft an additional €899 million for not honoring the ruling -- a fine that Microsoft appealed at the European Court of First Instance.

The Commission stressed that Microsoft has "an ongoing obligation to supply complete and accurate interoperability information."

But it added that since the original set of interoperability information has already been made public, and as rivals now can force continued access to the information through direct legal action in national courts, "the nature of the technical assistance that the Commission requires is now of a more ad hoc character."

The Commission praised the work of Barrett, but said it was no longer needed.

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