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Dealer files antitrust complaint against Microsoft

Already embroiled in legal tangle with Microsoft, Samir Abdalla says company charges at least a third more for its software in Europe than in U.S.

A Dutch software dealer has filed a complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission, arguing that the company's pricing policy in Europe violates antitrust laws.

Company owner Samir Abdalla's complaint is that Microsoft charges at least a third more for its software in Europe than it does in the U.S. Abdalla's lawyer, Gerard van der Wal of the Houthoff Buruma practice, said his client had begun a legal proceeding "this week" and was seeking clarification from the commission.

"At this stage, we are asking the court to accept that there has been a violation of the relevant European law," he told ZDNet UK on Friday. "Clearly, the commission does not enter into a discussion at this point."

According to Abdalla's lawyers, the price difference between Europe and the U.S. is between 30 percent and 50 percent. "The evidence is fairly clear," van der Wal said. "There is a huge price difference, and Microsoft uses its intellectual property to control that."

Abdalla is already engaged in legal proceedings with Microsoft. In May, Microsoft sued Abdalla as principal of the Dutch company HW Trading, alleging he had received more than $3.7 million (2.4 million pounds) from the illegal sale of unlicensed Microsoft software in the U.S.

The lawsuit, filed in California Central District Court, claims Abdalla took advantage of an Egyptian government program that provides low-cost software to citizens. Abdalla allegedly exported the software in that scheme to U.S. dealers and replaced it with counterfeit software in Egypt.

In response to that complaint, Abdalla has accused Microsoft of stifling trade in the so-called "gray market," which he argues is legal under European law. The gray market usually describes a market where goods, such as software, can be bought and traded freely even though a supplier has tried to ensure that the goods are only used in the country for which they are intended.

As for the current legal proceedings, van der Wal said he hopes the evidence will be put before the commission, "and we will go from there." He said he expects it will take "a few weeks" before the case can move any further.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.