Microsoft Corp., under threat of 2 million euro ($2.38 million) a day in fines, on Wednesday answered European Union complaints that it had failed to comply with an antitrust ruling by outlining a list of its own accusations.
The software maker filed a 75-page response to the EU’s formal charges right on the day of the deadline, outlining its complaints that the European Commission had ignored key information and denied it due process in defending itself.
“The Commission repeatedly refused to clearly define its requirements and concerns, despite repeated requests and accommodations by Microsoft,” the company said.
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The EU was expected to make a statement later Wednesday to confirm it received Microsoft’s response.
In March 2004, the EU levied a record 497 million euro ($613 million) fine against Microsoft, ordering the company to share technical data that would allow rivals to make their programs compatible with Microsoft. In December the EU said Microsoft was proving intransigent about complying and threatened to impose extra daily fines.
Microsoft said it had “complied fully with the technical documentation requirements.”
“Hundreds of Microsoft employees and contractors have worked for more than 30,000 hours to create over 12,000 pages of detailed technical documents that are available for license,” the company said in a statement.
An independent monitor had found that the documents Microsoft provided last autumn needed a drastic overhaul.
Computer science professor Neil Barrett wrote a critical report about the company’s efforts to comply with the EU’s ruling, saying he and a colleague had been unable to use Microsoft’s instructions to make rival software work with Microsoft servers.
Microsoft said the EU had been slow to tell it about the problems and EU officials in Brussels had not bothered to read documents Microsoft made available at its U.S. headquarters days before the EU filed formal charges on Dec. 21.
“The Commission waited many months before informing Microsoft that it believed changes were necessary to the technical documents, and then gave Microsoft only a few weeks to make extensive revisions,” the company said in its filing.
The software giant claimed the European Commission had ignored important evidence in its haste to attack the company’s compliance. It said it handed regulators two independent expert reports by five British and German software system engineering professors claiming that Microsoft’s technical documents met complex industry standards “particularly in such a complex domain.”
Microsoft would not name the experts but said they were “independent and credible.”
Last month Microsoft offered to let competitors examine some of the blueprints to its flagship Windows operating system, saying its source code was the “ultimate documentation” to answer any U.S. and EU regulators’ concerns that it might be withholding information.
It also held talks with Barrett and EU officials to improve the technical information and offered to pay for a third-party technical writing company to rework the support manual if the Commission decided that would be constructive.
It said rivals could also have 500 hours, or about $100,000 worth, of free technical support apiece, to help them develop software that worked smoothly with the Windows operating system’s communications code, known as server protocols.
The company still must settle EU questions over the fees and patent conditions for the companies that license the software protocols, however.
Microsoft can challenge the EU’s decision to withhold documents at its April appeal before the European Court of First Instance, the EU’s second-highest court.