Microsoft to face new antitrust scrutiny in Germany

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Germany’s competition watchdog is set to look into whether Microsoft should come under the scope of new rules that allow the country to rapidly prohibit anti-competitive conduct, according to people familiar with the matter.  

Two individuals close to the matter told POLITICO that the German Cartel Office has prepared a draft decision to launch proceedings under Section 19a of the German Competition Act. The move will attempt to determine whether Microsoft should be designated as having “paramount significance for competition across markets.”

If it is designated under the scope of the rules, Germany’s competition regulator will be able to intervene rapidly to ban certain anti-competitive conduct — including self-preferencing abuses and the pre-installation of services.   

A draft decision to launch proceedings to determine Microsoft’s designation could be published in September, the people said.

The German competition watchdog’s move follows the designations of Google, Meta and Amazon under the country’s new rules. The Bonn-based regulator is also examining whether Apple should also be subject to the measures, which came into effect in January 2021.  

A spokesperson for the German Cartel Office said the regulator is yet to open any formal proceeding against Microsoft under the country’s new competition laws for digital platforms.

Microsoft declined to comment.

In Brussels, Microsoft faces wider scrutiny over alleged anti-competitive conduct. The European Commission is investigating complaints it received last year from Germany’s NextCloud, France’s OVHcloud and Italy’s Aruba about Microsoft’s licensing terms and tying practices between Microsoft’s Azure and other services.

More recently, EU antitrust regulators have been examining Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion buyout of video game outfit Activision Blizzard, but the deal is yet to be formally notified to Brussels.   

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