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Microsoft gives its proprietary video conferencing platform Teams such dominance in Windows and Office that it may violate European Union antitrust rules. For that reason, the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has launched a new investigation into the platform’s dominance.

By bundling Teams with the rest of the widely used Office package by default, Microsoft would create unfair competition against alternative providers of such video call software. According to sources familiar with the matter, the European Commission (EC) is preparing formal antitrust charges, Politico reports.

With the new probe, the EC is escalating an earlier investigation that began in 2023. This may be a result of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which came into effect earlier this year. This regulatory framework aims to limit the control that large tech companies exercise over essential products and services within the EU.

Complaint about Teams dates back to 2020

Collaboration platform Slack (owned by Salesforce) complained to the Commission in 2020 about Microsoft’s alleged unfair competitive practices. According to the complaint, Teams would gain many users due to Microsoft’s bundling of this software 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 adding Teams by default, companies would almost automatically choose this meeting platform over alternatives, according to Slack.

In the meantime, Microsoft tried to appease European regulators by offering Teams separately from its other software. This offer initially applied in EU markets and later in the rest of the world. Apparently, that proposal did not sufficiently placate the Commission.

If the European Commission indeed concludes that Microsoft is pushing its own software too much in Office 365 and other packages, this may also have implications for the integration of AI assistant Copilot into the Windows operating system.

Tip: Will Microsoft be forced to curtail its Copilot plans?

Dominance of US companies

The EC is keen to curb the dominance of (mostly American) tech giants in the European market. In short, there must be enough alternatives for users to choose from in terms of software packages and services. Thus, a one-stop shop where a user does not have to look beyond what is offered by default (or is not even offered any choice) is out of the question.

According to the DMA, large companies like Microsoft count as ‘gatekeepers’ and thus bear special responsibility. Microsoft, as well as companies like Google, Meta and Apple, had to comply with all new regulations by March 6, 2024. Between May and July 2023, companies were given time to declare their own status as gatekeepers. Microsoft confirmed this status (as did the other companies involved) accepting particular responsibilities.

Microsoft has already been fined some two billion euros for monopoly practices by the EC in recent years.

Also read: EU opens investigation into bundling Teams, Microsoft may yet conciliate