Microsoft warned against blocking anti-trust probe

Comment by commerce administration comes as officials meet top lawyer for US software giant

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 4:40am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 5:56pm

Microsoft should not obstruct an anti-trust investigation by mainland regulators, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce said yesterday, the latest shot fired by Beijing at the US software giant.

The administration has questioned Microsoft's lawyer, Mary Snapp, who was at the regulator's offices, a spokesman for the agency said.

Last week, the administration said it was formally investigating Microsoft for breach of anti-trust rules and had raided four of the software firm's offices on the mainland.

"Microsoft promised to respect Chinese law and fully cooperate with the administration's investigation work," the agency said. Microsoft declined to provide immediate comment, but last week said its "business practices are designed to be compliant with Chinese law".

The warning is likely a preemptive step in the course of the government's investigation.

"I don't think the government is saying Microsoft has already done anything to obstruct the investigation, otherwise they would have publicised it," said You Yunting, a senior partner at Shanghai DeBund Law Offices. "In China, you do everything you have to completely submit if the authorities investigate you. The government is saying, 'We might be more lenient if you don't resist, otherwise we'll be tough'."

Microsoft has been suspected of violating China's anti-monopoly law since June last year in relation to problems with compatibility, bundling and document authentication, the administration said last week.

But industry experts have questioned how exactly Microsoft is violating anti-trust regulations in China, where the size of its business is negligible.

Beijing's has increased scrutiny of IT products and software used by government ministries and affiliated agencies.