European Commission Investigates Teams Bundling After Slack Complaint

Microsoft's bundling of Teams into its productivity suite offerings is being investigated as a possible violation of European Union competition rules, according to a Thursday announcement by the European Commission.

The complaint was lodged by Slack Technologies on "14 July 2020," where Slack alleged that "Microsoft illegally tied Teams to its dominant productivity suites," the EC indicated.

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration service included in Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscriptions, which also includes productivity apps (Excel, PowerPoint and Word) and SharePoint online solutions, such as OneDrive storage. The EC explained that bundling Teams with this productivity software could give Teams a distribution advantage over competing collaboration products.

Here's how the EC expressed that notion:

The Commission is concerned that Microsoft may be abusing and defending its market position in productivity software by restricting competition in the European Economic Area (‘EEA') for communication and collaboration products.

The EC tracks this current case via "case number AT.40721" at the EC's competition website. The short article currently posted there also mentioned that the EC was investigating "potential restrictions to the integration and interoperability of third-party products with Microsoft's products, to the advantage of Microsoft Teams."

Microsoft and Slack apparently didn't publish any notices about the EC's investigation, but a Microsoft spokesperson provided the following comment, via e-mail:

We respect the European Commission's work on this case and take our own responsibilities very seriously. We will continue to cooperate with the Commission and remain committed to finding solutions that will address its concerns.

The EC announcement noted that it's contrary to European Union law for a company to use its market dominance in one product area to restrict competition in other product markets. The next steps in the investigation weren't described, although the commission has "no legal deadline for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end."

Microsoft has faced such cases before. It had to unbundle its Internet Explorer browser from the Windows operating system and offer a "Web browser choice screen" to European Union Windows purchasers after the commission determined in Jan. 2009 Statement of Objections that IE bundling had harmed companies with competing browsers.   

The EC fines companies that violate EU competition rules. It's based on a percentage of sales (perhaps 30 percent) over the infringement period.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.