Microsoft has withdrawn its request for an oral hearing to respond to antitrust charges from the European Union.
Microsoft’s antitrust troubles kicked off when companies behind competing browsers accused Microsoft of using the fact that the majority of computers ship with Windows to create a nice little browser monopoly for itself with Internet Explorer. The European Union issued a preliminary Statement of Objections in January, claiming the company’s practices "undermine product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice." Microsoft responded to the statement of objections in late April, however details of the company’s response are not known.
A week after Microsoft responded to the EU, European Commission spokesperson Jonathan Todd said that a hearing would commence on June 3 and run through to June 5. "It will be an opportunity for Microsoft to state orally the arguments they outlined in their response to the statement of objections," he said.
CNN Money today reports, citing Todd, that Microsoft recently asked the commission to postpone the aforementioned hearing, but the commission didn't see any reason for that. Todd went on to say that Microsoft has now withdrawn its request for a hearing. Microsoft said in a blog post that the reason for asking for a postponement was because key decision makers would not be present and instead attending an annual antitrust conference in Zurich.
“The dates the Commission selected for our hearing, June 3-5, coincide with the most important worldwide intergovernmental competition law meeting,” wrote Dave Heiner, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Microsoft.
“We pointed out that there’s no legal or other reason that the hearing needs to be held the first week of June. We believe that holding the hearing at a time when key officials are out of the country would deny Microsoft our effective right to be heard and hence deny our 'rights of defense' under European law,” he continued. “Unfortunately, the Commission has informed us that June 3-5 are the only dates that a suitable room is available in Brussels for a hearing. Thus, the Commission has declined to reschedule the hearing despite our offer to find and outfit a suitable room ourselves at another time.”
Microsoft’s blog went on to say that because the EC cannot offer a suitable date, enabling the attendance of key officials the company saw no other solution than to withdraw its request for a hearing.