European antitrust chief is no shrinking violet

Neelie Kroes issues a stern warning to any company that plans to pull a fast one on the EU and justifies the $1.35 billion fine levied against Microsoft.

Tough-as-nails Neelie Kroes, the European Union's head antitrust cop, issued a stern warning to any company planning to blow off the regulatory agency and European antitrust laws.

Neelie Kroes European Community

"If you flee the rules, you will be caught. And it will cost you dearly," warned Kroes during in press conference Wednesday, following the European Commission's announcement it was slapping a $1.35 billion fine on Microsoft for failure to comply with earlier March 2004 antitrust sanctions.

Kroes further noted: "Talk is cheap. Flee the rules and it will be expensive. We don't want talk and promises. We want compliance (with regulations)."

For Microsoft, its fine was calculated based on the 488 days it was out of compliance, Kroes said. And while Kroes characterized the fine as "substantial," she noted it represented 60 percent of the total assessment the Commission could have levied on Microsoft.

Meanwhile, readers who participated in a News.com poll were roughly split 60-40 on whether the Commission's fine was too low, or too high, respectively.

Kroes, however, maintained the size of the fine was reasonable, given the length of time that Microsoft was out of compliance with the historic March 2004 order and number of people, companies and government agencies affected.

"Microsoft continued to stifle innovation by charging other companies prohibitive royalty rates for the essential information they needed to offer software products to computer users around the world," Kroes said. "The high rates made the rendering of (interoperability) information pointless."

To comply with the March 2004 order, Microsoft was supposed to offer rivals complete and accurate interoperability information so that their products would work with Microsoft's dominant operating system, as well as offer the information at a reasonable price.

Any company looking to avoid a clash with Kroes needs to keep one thing in mind. Says the woman herself: "Our approach is to ensure companies and people have a right to choose...then the markets will deliver so much more."

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EU antitrust chief on Microsoft
Neelie Kroes describes Microsoft's pricing structure as 'unreasonable.'
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Antitrust chief talks tough
Kroes discusses the European Commission's approach to illegal behavior.
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