WMU News

U.S. consumers could benefit from EU's Microsoft decision

March 24, 2004

KALAMAZOO--"It's a big victory for consumers."

That's how Dr. Norman Hawker of Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business characterizes today's European Union decision in the Microsoft case. The EU called Microsoft an "abusive monopolist," fined the company nearly $613 million and ordered it to sell versions of its Windows operating system without Media Player, the company's audio- and video-playing software.

"It remains to be seen whether American consumers will benefit directly from this decision," says Hawker, who is also a research associate with the American Antitrust Institute and a former Michigan assistant attorney general. "But American consumers cannot help but benefit from the ruling's spillover effects in all kinds of computer markets."

Hawker, an associate professor of finance and commercial law, notes that although the European Union's case against Microsoft involved different products and markets than those involved in the U.S. case, "the EU decision is consistent with the findings in the American case. Both the U.S. courts and the EU found that Microsoft is an abusive monopolist. Moreover, both the U.S. courts and the EU found that Microsoft violated the antitrust laws by bundling other products into Windows."

Microsoft has announced that it will appeal the EU's decision, but Hawker believes the decision will easily be upheld.

"The EU spent five years carefully examining the evidence, and they have imposed a remedy that carefully respects Microsoft's legitimate intellectual property rights," Hawker says. "The better question is not whether Microsoft will lose on appeal, but whether Microsoft will win a stay of the remedy pending the appeal. A stay could greatly harm competition and consumers, even if Microsoft loses the appeal down the road. Nor does Microsoft need a stay. After all, the decision does not prohibit Microsoft from offering Windows Media Player with Windows. It simply requires Microsoft to give consumers a choice."

For additional comment, contact Hawker at (269) 387-6118 or <norman.hawker@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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