EU opens investigation into bundling Teams, Microsoft may yet conciliate

EU opens investigation into bundling Teams, Microsoft may yet conciliate

The European Union is officially launching an investigation into Microsoft’s antitrust practices. The tech giant is accused of unfair competition by bundling its video platform Teams into Office 365 and Microsoft 365.

An official European Union investigation follows a complaint filed by rival chat platform Slack three years ago. According to the complaint, Teams is gaining a huge number of users by bundling it into Office 365 and Microsoft 365. These services are very popular in corporate environments because of the programs Word, and Excel and the e-mail client Outlook. By bundling Teams, companies are almost automatically choosing this meeting platform, according to Slack.

“In particular, the Commission is concerned that Microsoft may grant Teams a distribution advantage by not giving customers the choice on whether or not to include access to that product when they subscribe to their productivity suites and may have limited the interoperability between its productivity suites and competing offerings,” the European Commission writes.

Waiting for DMA?

The opening of an official investigation has taken a very long time. On July 14, 2020, Slack filed a complaint against Microsoft. Video platforms became essential to business operations that year due to the spread of the coronavirus. Later, the communications platform attempted to trigger the European Commission again, but concrete action was delayed.

It is unclear why exactly the investigation is starting now. One possible explanation may lie in the entry into force of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in May of this year. Between early May and early July, companies were given time to register themselves as ‘gatekeepers’. Microsoft confirmed meeting all requirements to fall under the definition.

The legislation was created specifically to curb the power of big tech. The rules include a ban on favoring proprietary services and products. Some rules deal with preventing the uninstallation of apps. That’s part of Slack’s complaint accusing Microsoft of installing Teams on millions of devices without giving users the option to uninstall it.

Is Microsoft not getting fined?

The DMA only does not hang penalties on gatekeepers for now. If the European Commission recognizes that a company meets the gatekeeper criteria, another six-month transition period will follow. Gatekeepers must comply with the new regulations no later than March 6, 2024.

So if the European Commission cannot accuse Microsoft of antitrust practices without the DMA rules, Microsoft seems to be getting off nicely in this case. For this, the developer of Teams only needs to ensure that Teams is repositioned within Office 365 and Microsoft 365.

Reuters has already heard from a source involved in the case that the Commission will only take swift action if Microsoft does not meet the other party quickly.

It is possible that Microsoft will make cheaper bundles that lack Teams. The company previously suggested this, but the idea was only raised without disclosing concrete next steps.

Also read: Why Microsoft keeps pushing the limit by forcing its software on you