Is Microsoft a Serial Abuser?

The European Union Wednesday slapped Microsoft with a hefty $614 million fine and imposed certain remedies for past abuses of its software monopoly.

But then the EU went further than a similar judgment in the US with an order aimed at controlling "future conduct" of the computer giant. Microsoft would be prevented from offering future software products by "bundling" them with its operating system.

That latter action involves an assumption of guilt that wrongly goes beyond the original complaints and which American courts have wisely rejected.

Microsoft deserves both punishment and correction for having used its market dominance in operating systems to muscle down its competitors. And it certainly must be watched for further abuses, even though legal action can take years.

But the EU's antitrust enforcers seem intent on diminishing Microsoft's global dominance in software, which may reflect Europe's political desire to become more competitive with the United States.

The decision also hurts efforts to unify antitrust law among developed nations so companies can operate uniformly across borders.

Consumers may benefit from the EU's overreaching decision, but the rule of law certainly doesn't. Let's hope Microsoft's appeal will remove that offending portion.

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