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Microsoft faces EU antitrust complaint from rival cloud firms

French firm OVHcloud confirmed as one of "several" parties that made a complaint in the summer

A mouse hovering over the Microsoft Word icon on macOS

Microsoft's cloud business is facing a potential antitrust investigation from the European Union over the way its software is licensed.

"Several" European-based cloud computing companies are alleged to have made the complaint, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Reports have suggested that the complaint was made in the summer and that it claims Microsoft's licenses for cloud-based products, such as its Office productivity suite, favour its own cloud service (Azure). Specifically, it's alleged that the services work better on Azure and are licensed in a way that makes it more expensive to use on other cloud platforms.

The companies behind the complaint have yet to be identified by the European Commission, though it has gone on record to confirm it is "assessing" a complaint under the Standard Commission procedures.

French cloud firm OVHcloud has released a statement confirming that it is one of the parties involved.

"Through abusing its dominant position, Microsoft undermines fair competition and limits consumer choice in the cloud computing services market," the company said in a statement to Reuters.

A Microsoft spokesperson told IT Pro: "We're continuously evaluating how we can best support partners and make Microsoft software available to customers across all environments, including those of other cloud providers."

The company has yet to comment on the specific complaint.

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Since 2017, the European cloud market has grown fourfold, according to Synergy Research Group, reaching €7.3 billion by the second quarter of 2021. The region is currently dominated by US providers AWS, Google, and Microsoft, with a combined market share of 69%.

The biggest European player, at the time of Synergy's report, was Deutsche Telecom, which accounted for just 2% of the market. Directly under Deutsche is OVH, SAP, and Orange.

Complaints can take months, or even years, to become investigations. Microsoft was accused of antitrust practices in 2020, a complaint filed against its Teams product by Slack. There has been little development on the matter, aside from a few reports that suggest the European Commission has sought to gather information from rival companies. There is also the possibility that the Commission had found no wrongdoing on Microsoft's part.

The company's president, Brad Smith is set to meet with EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Friday, to discuss the impact of digital technology.

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