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Three years after Slack's complaint, European Commission confirms formal Teams bundling investigation

Slack had alleged that Microsoft “created a weak, copycat product and tied it to their dominant Office product, force installing it and blocking its removal"

Teams bundling competition European commission
In Microsoft's stock imagery, everyone is happy on a Teams call.

The European Commission has confirmed persistent rumours: It is opening a formal investigation into whether Microsoft breached EU competition rules by bundling Teams with Office 365 and Microsoft 365.

The decision comes exactly three years after Slack filed a competition complaint, alleging on July 22, 2020 that Microsoft “created a weak, copycat product and tied it to their dominant Office product, force installing it and blocking its removal, a carbon copy of their illegal behavior during the ‘browser wars’". (Microsoft responded that Slack had underperformed in an open market because it lacked video conferencing at the time.)

This week Margrethe Vestager suggested that she may be sympathetic to Slack's view, with her Competition Commission say it is “concerned that Microsoft may be abusing and defending its market position in productivity software by restricting competition in the European Economic Area (‘EEA') for communication and collaboration products.

Teams bundling: Not giving customers a choice?

“In particular, the Commission is concerned that Microsoft may grant Teams a distribution advantage by not giving customers the choice on whether or not to include access to that product when they subscribe to their productivity suites and may have limited the interoperability between its productivity suites and competing offerings.”

“These conducts, if proven, may constitute an infringement of Article 102 of the Treaty and Article 54 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area” the EC says in its “opening of proceedings” document.

The Stack has requested comment from Microsoft – which said at the time of the initial complaint by Slack that "We created Teams to combine the ability to collaborate with the ability to connect via video, because that’s what people want.  With COVID-19, the market has embraced Teams in record numbers while Slack suffered from its absence of video-conferencing. We’re committed to offering customers not only the best of new innovation, but a wide variety of choice in how they purchase and use the product," it added.

“We look forward to providing additional information to the European Commission and answering any questions they may have.”

See also: Slack's initial move to open up DMs is a slow motion car crash