Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today expressed outrage over the draconian punishment handed down by the European Commission (EC) to Microsoft for violating European antitrust laws. The decision requires Microsoft to handover valuable intellectual property, unbundle its software, and pay a $612 million fine.

“The decision by the European Commission will have a global impact of negative consequence,” CAGW President Tom Schatz said. “In most international antitrust cases, courts will rely on precedent if a decision has been made in another jurisdiction. This is to ensure stability in the global marketplace. Microsoft had already reached a fair agreement in U.S. courts that the EC should have followed.”

The European Commission began antitrust investigations against Microsoft in 1999. It contended that by including its Windows Media Player with its operating system, Microsoft had an advantage over other manufacturers of media players. The Commission also claimed Microsoft did not disclose enough technical data about its operating systems that would allow competitors to manufacture compatible programs. Settlement talks broke down last week when the EC insisted that it be able to regulate any future additions to the Windows operating system.

“The EC should not be making decisions that are best left to the marketplace. Attempting to restrict the future design of software is unprecedented and has been rejected by the U.S. courts.

“The decision forcing Microsoft to give up many of its rights to its intellectual property is a dangerous setback to innovation. Companies will have no motivation for designing new products if they have to share their information with competitors or face strict penalties from the EC,” Schatz continued. “This is not just a decision that affects Europe. 95 percent of the world’s computers use Microsoft’s Windows operating systems. If this decision and those of the future force Microsoft and other companies to alter their products depending on where they are sold in the world or the whims of unelected bureaucrats, international communication and transactions could be severely hampered.”

CAGW tracked the antitrust case in the United States and monitored the $35 million cost to taxpayers. It works closely with taxpayer groups in Europe such as Contribuables Associes in France and The Taxpayer Alliance in England.

“As the rest of the world continues to grow technologically, Europe will lag behind if it does not change its mindset,” Schatz concluded. “The European Commission should not have issued a decision that defies precedent and will have such a negative impact on the global economy. It is imperative that when Microsoft appeals this decision that the United States government weighs in on behalf of the American consumer and taxpayer.”

Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.