Dutch software trader Samir Abdalla has filed a broad antitrust complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission, charging that the firm’s pricing policies violate European Union treaties. The trader complains that Microsoft charges European users at least 30 percent higher prices than in the United States.
Abdalla has hired law firm Houthoff, a well known legal firm with a broad representation in Brussels.
Microsoft last May filed legal charges against Abdalla for allegedly illegal export of software licenses. The software maker argued that Abdalla illegally sold home and student licenses with an estimated value of US$3.4 million.
Abdalla has always denied those charges. In response to Microsoft’s complaint, he accused the firm of stifling the legal trade in grey software. Abdalla purchased software licenses in Egypt and then sold them in the U.S. The practice is known as grey trade and although banned in the E.U., it is allowed by U.S. authorities. Back in May, Abdalla promised to file charges with European authorities.
Although it took six months longer than planned, Abdalla earlier this month filed his legal complaint with the Directorate General for Competition. The body, which is headed up by Commissioner Neelie Kroes, has a long history battling Microsoft for antitrust violations.
Gerard van der Wal, an attorney with Houthoff, typifies the case as relatively easy. “Microsoft charges significantly higher prices for the same software in the eurozone than it does in the United States, even though the costs can hardly differ. We argue that Microsoft infringes on article 81 of the European Treaty, which outlaws cartels and agreements limiting competition, as well as article 82, which bans the abuse of a dominant position,” Houthoff told Webwereld, an IDG affiliate.
Houthoff pointed to the 95 percent market share of Microsoft Office, which Abdalla purchased in Egypt and then sold in the U.S. “This software is five times more expensive in Europe than in Egypt. But we didn’t use Egypt as an example because Microsoft could argue that special circumstances, such as lower wages, would play a factor in pricing decisions. The comparison with the United States is much more appropriate.”