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Microsoft fined over Office pricing in Germany

German regulators impose an $11.8 million fine against the software maker over retail pricing during a promotion for the Home and Student version of Office.

Regulators in Germany slapped Microsoft's local subsidiary with a fine of 9 million euros ($11.8 million) for improperly influencing pricing of Office during a retail promotion.

"Microsoft has influenced the resale price of the software package--Office Home & Student 2007--in an anticompetitive manner," Germany's Bundeskartellamt said in an English-language version of its press release.

The agency said that Microsoft unduly influenced pricing of Office Home and Student 2007 at a particular retailer as part of a fall 2008 promotion with office supply stores, which included financial support from Microsoft.

"Even before the launch of the advertising campaign in mid-October 2008, employees of Microsoft and the retailer in question had agreed on at least two occasions on the resale price of the software package," the German regulator said. "Not every contact between supplier and retailer regarding resale prices constitutes an illegal concerted practice within the meaning of Section 1 ARC. However, this must not lead to a form of coordination where the supplier actively tries to coordinate the pricing activities of the retailer and thus retailer and supplier agree on future actions of the retailer. In the present case, this boundary has been crossed."

The German agency said that Microsoft has "accepted the fine."

"We respect German competition law and are committed to running our business in full compliance with all German laws and regulations," Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans said in a statement. "We will use this case as an opportunity to review our internal commercial processes and ensure that we are in full compliance with German law."

Russia recently announced that it was considering adding Microsoft to a list of companies with high market share that might be subject to additional scrutiny under that country's antitrust laws, while the European Union has also issued a preliminary finding that the inclusion of a browser within Windows violates antitrust laws.