What just happened? Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Competition, is targeting Microsoft with a formal investigation for potential breach of Europe's antitrust rules. The US corporation is accused of abusing its market dominance over the office productivity business.
After a "truce" which lasted more than a decade, the European Commission is once again probing Microsoft for unfair and monopolistic business practices. The cloud and AI corporation is seemingly back to its old nasty behaviors towards competitors, trying to crush third-party companies by exploiting unfair advantages like bundling Teams with the Office 365 productivity cloud service.
Video conferencing applications achieved a spectacular popularity level during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Teams rose from 2 million users registered in the first year (2017) to 270 million users by the end of 2022. In 2020, Slack (now owned by Salesforce) filed a complaint with the European Commission, accusing Microsoft of forcing Teams installation on Office 365 subscribers as a way to boost the tool's popularity.
Three years later, the EU is now ready to conduct an official probe. Vestager says that remote communication and collaboration tools like Teams have become indispensable for many businesses in Europe, therefore the EU must ensure that they "remain competitive" and companies are still free to choose whatever collaboration tool they want to install and use.
Microsoft's proposed solution to Brussels, a halt to the forced installation of Teams with Office 365 subscriptions but only in European countries, wasn't enough to convince EU authorities to avoid the antitrust investigation. Redmond now states that the company takes its own responsibilities "very seriously," and that it will continue to cooperate with the Commission anyway.
The Commission, however, could be eventually forced to conclude its investigation with a new, hefty fine against Microsoft. In 2009, the EU charged Redmond for its anticompetitive practice with Internet Explorer tied to the Windows OS, and four years later Brussels was forced to impose a €561 million fine because the US corporation wasn't fulfilling its duty.
Furthermore, Slack isn't the only organization asking the EU to act against the new monopolistic itch Microsoft is exposing to the whole technology world. A new complaint against Teams integration with Office 365 came just last week, by a German company selling videoconferencing software known as Alfaview. In the past decade, Microsoft has been fined €2.2 billion for breaching Europe's competition rules.