House letter: Windows issue 'not a concern' for EU

In a letter to the European Commission, members of Congress say that because the bundling issue was resolved by the Justice Department settlement, it "should not have been an area of concern for the E.U."

Editor's note: Microsoft found an unexpected set of friends Wednesday, as 10 members of the House of Representatives' International Relations committee protested the European Union's sanctions against the world's largest software company. In the letter, which follows, five Democrats and five Republicans--none of them from Microsoft's home state of Washington--said the Eurocrats' decision violated the spirit of a 1991 "comity agreement" the Clinton administration renewed in 1998. The agreement encourages antitrust officials on the two continents to work closely together, and generally says that the United States should take the lead in overseeing American companies.

Open letter to European Union Competition Commissioner Mario Monti
European Commission
Rue de la Loi 200
B-1049 Brussels
Belgium

Dear Commissioner Monti:

As members of the House International Relations Committee, we are writing to express our concern regarding the European Commission's ruling in its case against Microsoft and the ruling's potential impact on the U.S.-E.U. Comity Agreement. As you know, we are deeply committed to strengthening transatlantic political and economic relations. Therefore, the potential of a regulatory impediment to the continued vibrancy of American and European industries is of the utmost concern to us.

After nearly 5 years of work, the U.S. Department of Justice, several state antitrust regulators and Microsoft reached a settlement--which was subsequently reviewed and approved by a U.S. court--that addressed and resolved the same matters at issue in the current E.U. proceedings. The court's Final Judgment established a comprehensive regulatory scheme that not only resolved past conduct, but also created a detailed compliance structure to address future competitive concerns that might arise. This regulatory scheme insures that Microsoft can continue to add new features into its products but allows both users and computer manufacturers to hide these additional features and use competing products instead.

The European Commission's investigation of the potential anticompetitive effects of Microsoft's actions, specifically the inclusion of audio and video functionality in Windows operating systems, is difficult to understand in the context of the U.S. Settlement and the U.S.-E.U. Comity Agreement of 1991. Because this exact issue was raised and resolved during the U.S. settlement, it should not have been an area of concern for the E.U.

While we respect that it is entirely within the scope of your jurisdiction to investigate any action by Microsoft, the U.S.-E.U. Comity Agreement codifies the commitment of both parties to seek to avoid conflict in the application of their competition laws, particularly in cases that would directly conflict with or undermine the actions or interests of other nations and even where one nation clearly has jurisdiction. As you know, this Agreement was reaffirmed and strengthened in 1998. We strongly support the principles set forth in that Agreement and consider it of utmost importance that this Agreement is respected in this case as well. We should also note that this case involves a U.S. company, that the complaining parties in the E.U. were primarily U.S. companies and that all of the relevant design decisions occurred in the United States.

We hope that the outcome of the Commission's investigation does not devalue the U.S. Department of Justice's prior settlement with Microsoft and that it respects the principles of international cooperation set forth in the Comity Agreement. In addition, we trust that whatever resolution you find will place a high value on the future of innovation in the software industry And the needs of both European and American consumers. Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert Wexler
Peter King
Dan Burton
Gregory Meeks
Steve Chabot
Joseph Crowley
Jo Ann Davis
Adam Schiff
Mark Green
Chris Bell

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