Microsoft has decided to cancel a hearing it requested in the current EU antitrust case. According to Microsoft's Dave Heiner, this is because the dates of the hearing coincided with the "International Competition Network" competition law meeting, meaning that "many of the most influential Commission and national competition officials with the greatest interest in our case will be in Zurich and so unable to attend [their] hearing in Brussels".
Microsoft is concerned that this will deny them their right to be heard, and their "rights of defense", despite their admission that the hearing has no legal weight as such. …
ECIS attorney Thomas Vinje has a different take on Microsoft's decision to cancel the hearing. He says that Microsoft simply "got cold feet", and that Microsoft representatives are making statements they know are false.
Vinje points out that such hearings are usually only conducted by staff level officials rather than senior officials. Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd confirms Vinje's comments, and adds that the hearing would be attended by Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition.
Mrs. Kroes certainly doesn't seem to pull any punches when it comes to dealing with anti-competitive behaviour. Could this be another stalling tactic by Microsoft? Are they hoping to delay the case until she steps down later this year?
While I'm on the subject of misleading statements, I feel I must comment on this statement by Dave Heiner:
We also submitted a response to the Commission at the end of April explaining why we believe that including Web browsing software in modern operating systems is lawful.
Mr. Heiner must surely know that Mozilla, Google, Opera, the EC or other involved parties have never claimed that it is illegal to inclue browsers with an operating system. Being a Deputy General Counsel, he should have a better grasp of the law than this! The problem is the way Microsoft used bundling in combination with its dominance in the operating system market to undermine competition in the browser market.
Is Mr. Heisner making a statement he knows is false, or did he simply not do his job as Deputy General Counsel, which would involve educating himself about the actual facts of the case?
Incompetence or malice? With Microsoft, it's often difficult to tell.