On Thursday, the European Commission opened an antitrust investigation into Microsoft’s bundling of its Teams app with its Office suite, which includes Word, Excel, and Outlook. The EU is concerned that this practice may be in breach of the bloc’s competition rules.
The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed in 2020 by Slack. The rival workplace messaging platform alleged that Microsoft had illegally tied Teams to its Office tools and was “abusing its market dominance to extinguish competition,” in violation of EU laws.
Following analysis of the complaint, the Commission has now concluded that the bundling may indeed constitute an anti-competitive practice.
Specifically, the regulators expressed two concerns. First off, Microsoft may be granting Teams a distribution advantage by not offering customers the choice to not buy the app when they subscribe to Office 365. Secondly, they suspect that the US tech giant may have limited the interoperability between its suites and competitive services, such as Slack.
“Remote communication and collaboration tools like Teams have become indispensable for many businesses in Europe,” said Margrethe Verstager, the EU’s antitrust commissioner. “We must therefore ensure that the markets for these products remain competitive, and companies are free to choose the products that best meet their needs.”
In 2009, the EU opened a similar antitrust probe into Microsoft, after the company attempted to bundle Internet Explorer with its Windows operating system. In response, Microsoft granted users the choice to use their preferred web browser.
Now, the Redmond-based giant seems willing to comply once again. “[We] will continue to cooperate with the Commission and remain committed to finding solutions that will address its concerns,” the company said in a statement.
If Microsoft is found in breach of the EU’s competition rules, it will be required to offer remedies, or risk a fine of up to 10% of its total annual turnover.