Pirates across the Pond: EU's Microsoft Ruling Is "Court-Ordered Claptrap," Taxpayer Advocate Charges

(Alexandria, VA) -- In upholding the European Commission's (EC's) antitrust case against Microsoft today, a European Union (EU) court has hung out the equivalent of a "Closed to New Business" sign on the entire continent, according to the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The citizen group has advocated eliminating trade barriers, streamlining regulations, and reducing worldwide taxes to strengthen the global economy.

"Apparently the Court of First Instance was last in line to get the memo about what a free market means and why it's superior to a government-controlled economy," said NTU President John Berthoud. "However, those who believe this ruling will only affect Europeans are tragically mistaken. U.S. and other companies will certainly think twice about delivering innovative goods and services to Europeans, since 'too much' of that activity will earn fines rather than profits. But this understandable and unfortunate attitude could spread to South Korea and other nations watching the Microsoft case."

Berthoud catalogued instances of EU behavior in the Microsoft case where officials seemed to act more like pirates than public servants, among them:

  • Strong-Arm Tactics -- The EC has tried to force Microsoft and other American firms to deliver vital trade secrets to their competitors, and authorities have conducted warrantless "search and seize" missions on company offices in Europe. "Fair competition should be guided by consumers and providers, not by bureaucracies or police forces," Berthoud said.
  • Micro Mis-management -- In the Microsoft case, the EC went so far as to compel the company to develop media player-free Windows software, and even defined packaging elements and marketing techniques. Sales never reached more than 1,750.
  • Rule of Law ... but Only for Others -- During the Microsoft debacle the EC has changed its rulings on at least four occasions. There have been missed deadlines and arbitrary changes to fine structures.

"Taxpayers and consumers around the world ought to hope that the EC's regulatory rampage is put to a stop," Berthoud concluded. "Otherwise, the expanding global economy that has made billions of lives better could face a severe setback."

NTU is a nonpartisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom. Note: Further information, including a wide range of NTU studies and commentaries on antitrust, is available online at www.ntu.org.