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237 comments

Ah jeez, not this shit again... (1, Troll)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555333)

Listen up, chillins': the manufacturer incentives generally means that the manufacturer is giving the retailer money, and the manufacturer wants to make sure that the reseller uses it to lower prices, rather than just pocketing it. So ironically it seems that Microsoft is being penalized for trying to give consumers a lower price --- which is one way a monopoly can flaunt its power and exclude competitors. When the plausible competitors are already lower priced, I'm not sure how much sense that makes. Also, fuck you, it's early and no coffee.

Fuck you.

=Smidge=

Suck My Ball Steve Ballmer (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556153)

and I mean that with the most sincerity one could possibly project, Steve. Suck My Balls !!

No, it doesn't matter since I dont buy that shit anyway, but do suck my balls Steve !!

No,You Suck My Balls Steve Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556507)

No, you suck my balls Steve Jobs !!!!!!

small change... (5, Funny)

smoatigah (1520351) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555339)

Thats going to make a huge dent that is...

Re:small change... (3, Insightful)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555667)

This is a huge dent. Let's say if they didn't price fix they would sell their product at $100, but after price fixing they sell their product at $25. Their additional profit is $25/unit. So paying 9 mil Euros will put a huge dent into that additional profit if not take it out completely. Remember we are talking about a local subsidiary of MS, not MS corporate home. If MS let's them shoulder the burden of that penalty it would be heavy.

Though I am wondering how they are doing price fixing. If they have a suggested retail price on the box that does not fall under price fixing. Stores are not obligated to sell at those prices but historically stores are given some kind of preferential treatement (e.g. becoming an authorized dealer) for selling at the suggested price. The other upside is that Store A doesn't price gouge itself to be better priced then Store B. That's not price fixing. So going by

Microsoft has influenced the resale price of the software package--Office Home & Student 2007--in an anticompetitive manner

this must not lead to a form of coordination where the supplier actively tries to coordinate the pricing activities of the retailer and thus retailer and supplier agree on future actions of the retailer. I

Dude is making wind to get some brownie points (works great on /.). In all honesty setting a suggested retail price != price fixing. Again, if anyone here believes that they may want to sue every company that produces a product with a price attacked to the packaging from the manufacturer.
BTW i highlighted the "anticompetitive manner" it doesnt' state against what. Anti-competitive against Open Office? I doubt that. Anticompetitive against other MS Office retailers? Why would corporate do that? They don't care what the retailers sell it at as long as they get their money for each box sold (which they set the price). It's popular and easy to slam MS because it's been done before. The number 1 company in a given market is always viewed as the evil of the world. Since they have tons of money it's "OK" to sue.

On a side note I find fault with statements like this

Russia recently announced that it was considering adding Microsoft to a list of companies with high market share that might be subject to additional scrutiny under that country's antitrust laws,

So if I create a prodcut that EVERYONE loves and EVERYONE MUST HAVE I should be put under scrutiny and sued? Even if I didn't do anything wrong I am supposed to be punished because everyone loves my product? The American dream (or any other countries dream) being torn down one lawsuit at a time. I feel that Russia will sue because getting 9 mil euros is an easy way to increase a countries income.

Re:small change... (3, Insightful)

Kynde (324134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556229)

>> Russia recently announced that it was considering adding Microsoft to a list of companies with high market share that might be subject to additional scrutiny under that country's antitrust laws,
>
> So if I create a prodcut that EVERYONE loves and EVERYONE MUST HAVE I should be put under scrutiny and sued?

You create a one-hit-wonder, then perhaps no. But you dominate a market quite a while, regardless of how superior your product is, then yes, you should be subject to scrutiny. Not outright sued ofcourse, the gp never said that.

There is a good goddamn reason we have antitrust laws. It's just that now that the companies have gone so global that the countries into which they roll in the profits too seldom tend to go after them.

Re:small change... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556357)

So if I create a prodcut that EVERYONE loves and EVERYONE MUST HAVE I should be put under scrutiny and sued?

You don't like it? Okay, we'll make a deal. We'll exempt you from antitrust laws, giving you the freedom to monopolise as you wish. On the other hand, we'll also withdraw the protection of copyright and trademark law (which allowed you to become a monopoly in the first place) from you, giving your competitors the freedom to produce duplicates of your product, and to give them the same name as your original version. Sound fair?

Re:small change... (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556437)

You started well, but faded...

Yes, it's a significant fine, and should make the Ms boys take notice and change, as they say they will in the article.

Also, FTA, "employees of Microsoft and the retailer in question had agreed on at least two occasions on the resale price of the software package"

Urm, that's what they were hit for; illegal price fixing. Of course, you could argue that such things go on al the time, and are perhaps of themselves not particularly evil, but that's not the point: they're illegal, so if you're a big MNC and you get caught, you're gonna take a big hit. As you should.

Now that ast bit...hmmm..nobody 'must have' IE and/or WMP bundled with their machine. Compelling alternatives exist. Unfortunately, by their past practises Microsoft have shown themselves to be rather too aggressive in their exploitation of their quasi-monopoly. Therefore it is reasonable to supervise them more closely. Compare with Intel - they are just as dominant, but are much more careful about stuff like this and consequently have far fewer problems.

Re:small change... (4, Funny)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555971)

It may not look like much, but when you convert it from Euros to US Dollars it's something like $1.3 billion. ;-)

Re:small change... (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556067)

I agree, they've probably made more than $9 million price fixing.

Re:small change... (1)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556297)

Care to explain _how_?

What competitor are they undercutting? Open office?

That's Surprising... (3, Interesting)

lag10 (667114) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555349)

Their motto is usually "pry it from my cold, dead hands" in regards to these fines.

Wonder what's with the change of heart?

Re:That's Surprising... (4, Insightful)

joelmax (1445613) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555425)

They most likely expected the fine and included it into their costs for running the promo. They probably figured that the amount they would make off the promo would probably offset the cost of the fine enough to make it worthwhile.

Re:That's Surprising... (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556607)

And they'll probably pay it off by dumping copies of Windows 98 ME onto German middle schools, valued at MSRP.

Re:That's Surprising... (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555499)

Easy. $9 million is not only pocket change to to Microsoft, it's very likely that $9 million < the legal bills to fight it.

They could pay the lawyers > $9 million to fight it, or they can just pay the fine.

Either way, the outcome is the same.

Sometimes you just take the practical way out.

Re:That's Surprising... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556055)

Wrong. It is *not* the legal costs.

Legal fees are regulated in Germany. For a 9 Mill Euro court fight, assuming they use in-house lawyers for their defense, the standard costs (2 "full fees") to get a judgement are just Euro 20912.

Seems MS just sees no chance to win...

Re:That's Surprising... (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555505)

Probably the closest director payed directly from his pocket money and forgot about it.

"Hey Bob. I'm reading something about a fine in EU. Did you have any problem?"
"Hmmm, Oh! So that's why the hotel was so expensive! I thought I miscounted the girls."

Re:That's Surprising... (1, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555543)

Likely the fact that the legal effort to challenge the fine would cost more than the fine.

Re:That's Surprising... (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555597)

1. It would cost them additional finances to battle the decision, and what seals it all is the fact that most likely they would end up being slapped anyway. They knew this was not a battle they could win.

2. You can figure a company of the size of Microsoft by now knows to include and account for consequences of their practices, sucn as being slapped for rigging prices. I.e. like someone else said already, most likely their plan took account of a possible fine and its likely size. They just included it in the 'Likely/Uncertain Expenses' field when planning to rig prices.

Punishment (2, Insightful)

Davemania (580154) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555359)

Is 9 million euros really a lot for microsoft? It seems like there are no other action taken against their behavior and MS is just happy to take the fine and move along.

Re:Punishment (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27555415)

Is 9 million euros really a lot for microsoft? It seems like there are no other action taken against their behavior and MS is just happy to take the fine and move along.

Not only is it not a lot for Microsoft, it's probably less than the legal bill would be if they tried to appeal it.

Their options are basically give the money to the EU, or give the money to the lawyers. Why even bother? Either way, you're screwed.

Re:Punishment (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555637)

How about giving money to lawyers AND giving money to EU? They can't win this one. It is not like their lawyers are miracle workers, even though for the salary they are getting, they do get away with a lot of things that are sure to bury everyone else in the same situation.

Re:Punishment (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555485)

For a company with a market cap of $174 billion USD [yahoo.com] 9 million Euros which equals $12 million USD is a drop in the bucket.

Eurodollar to US Dollar (3, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555363)

Given the current exchange rate that's roughly $12,000,000 United States Dollars. [yahoo.com]

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27555583)

Can I get that in some kind of a useful unit, like numbers of bionic men?

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27555835)

Two, of course.

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (4, Informative)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555585)

It's called "Euro", not "Eurodollar". Much in the same way that the swedish currency is called "Krona" and not "Kronadollar" or how the currency used in the UK is called "pound" not "pounddollar".

/Mikael

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27555731)

Yes. But eurodollar is actually a concept that exists in banking and predates the euro. They are dollars held in banks outside of the United States. They were instrumental to the establishment of the dollar as the world reserve currency. But with such similar terms it is not hard to see that people become confused.

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (4, Funny)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555733)

In the USA it's called Corona and it's a Mexican beer.

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (2, Informative)

vishbar (862440) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555779)

In fact, Eurodollar [wikipedia.org] has an entirely different meaning.

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (1)

Ragzouken (943900) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555861)

This terminology is as sound as a dollarpound.

Your right, but you should be wrong (1)

microbox (704317) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555867)

The currency in the UK is should most definitely the "pounddollar." It sounds so quaint.

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (4, Interesting)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555915)

To make matters worse, eurodollars are not nor were they ever euros. Eurodollars [wikipedia.org] are regular, plain US dollars that are deposited outside of the US's jurisdiction and therefore out of the control of the US's central banking system. So I guess someone heard that new term somewhere and didn't had time to know a bit about it before spreading it around. To put it in other words...

  "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27555969)

poundcake?

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556333)

It's superior to poundpie.

Re:Eurodollar to US Dollar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556277)

It's called "Euro", not "Eurodollar". Much in the same way that the swedish currency is called "Krona" and not "Kronadollar" or how the currency used in the UK is called "pound" not "pounddollar". /Mikael

Ok let's really nitpick! Your precious "Euro" and "Krona" values are based on the almighty US Dollar value. So, Eurodollar is actually somewhat accurate.

"Anti-competitive" (5, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555367)

I have never understood why a company should consider the detriment to its competition when pricing its products. Can anyone explain this to me? Should a person or organization be free to set the price of its products, whether too high or too low, and likewise be free to succeed or fail based on its actions? Isn't any answer besides "yes" an indication that people have a right to the product. Either that, or one would have to argue that people were somehow coerced into buying the product.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (4, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555427)

That's not the issue in this story. It's under German law, that the supplier and retailer can't agree on what the retail price will be.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27555457)

Fuck Germany. They need Microsoft more than Microsoft needs them.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Funny)

Kynde (324134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556267)

Fuck Germany. They need Microsoft more than Microsoft needs them.

Come on, nobody needs microsoft that much...

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556351)

Sad, but true.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (3, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555481)

It's under German law, that the supplier and retailer can't agree on what the retail price will be.

But isn't that absurd? Isn't the entire concept of trade that the buyer and seller freely agree to the price of their product? If a store demands a company sell a product to them at a certain price in order to get placement in the store, the company is free to agree to the price or not. And vice versa. And a customer is likewise free to buy the product or not. Unless the company was coerced, or the retailer was coerced, or the customer was coerced, what is the problem here? Whose rights are being violated?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555515)

It's not the price between the store and vendor that can't be agreed upon, that'd be absurd. It's the price between the store and end consumer that can't be influenced by the vendor.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Interesting)

gravesb (967413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555547)

It seems equally absurd that MS can't influence the price between the store and end consumer. They can certainly do it indirectly by selling through their website directly to consumers. So why not allow them to coordinate broad promotional rates?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556299)

It seems equally absurd that MS can't influence the price between the store and end consumer.

Do you remember when Microsoft was telling OEMs that if they bundled Netscape with their systems, they would lose their preferred pricing on OEM licenses?

Oh wait, obviously not.

Those who forget the lessons of the recent past are doomed to look like idiots on Slashdot.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

gravesb (967413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556415)

Influence does not mean dictate. As I clearly explained in my post, influence by offering the same product directly at a lower price. I'm also curious if you ever read the court of appeals opinion? Or are you parroting summaries from the internet?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556365)

It seems equally absurd that MS can't influence the price between the store and end consumer.

Why should they be able to do that? Free market != Fixed market.

What if Don Corleone was the sole provider of wheat, influencing the price of bread to something very reasonable, let's say, $100?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Insightful)

gravesb (967413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556491)

There is a limit to what people are willing to pay, even for a monopoly product. Monopoly rents aren't infinite.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555589)

It's not the price between the store and vendor that can't be agreed upon, that'd be absurd. It's the price between the store and end consumer that can't be influenced by the vendor.

And that is likewise absurd. If a vendor says, "if you want a contract with us, you need to price your product at $X on the store shelf" - isn't that contractual law, and shouldn't the store be free to accept or refuse to sign the contract, and succeed or fail by their actions?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Informative)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555827)

No, that's illegal. I'm surprised it isn't illegal in the US.

They can say 'If you want a contract with us, we're going to charge you $X per unit' but the retailer is free to set any price they like above or even below that. To do otherwise is price fixing - it destroys competition in the marketplace by forcing everyone to sell at the same (inflated) price.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555967)

No, that's illegal.

I'm not arguing whether or not it's illegal - that's a matter of fact. I'm arguing whether it should be illegal.

To do otherwise is price fixing - it destroys competition in the marketplace by forcing everyone to sell at the same (inflated) price.

You contradict yourself in the same sentence. You say that competition will be destroyed, but then say that everyone will have to sell at a higher price. What prevents a competitor from selling a similar product at a lower price? And how do you justify the violation of rights that comes with such regulations against setting the terms of one's contracts?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556321)

It destroys competition between vendors. It is that which is detrimental to the consumer by preventing the consumer being able to find the same product at a fair (optimum, market driven) price.

Doing what you suggest would put control of the entire market in the hands of the company producing the goods, destroy the vendors ability to adapt to the local market including putting items on 'sale' or use price variation to pull customers into their store.

Would it really make sense for every shop to sell everything at the same price?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556505)

You contradict yourself in the same sentence.

No, he didn't. The competition between resellers is removed. The competition with other products is not killed.

And the next step is to force resellers to accept more conditions. Of course, all this in the best interest of the consumer.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556511)

You are being deliberately obscure.

Let's try again, with different phrasing.

The manufacturer cannot dictate the selling price to a store, the store must be free to set any price it wishes.

Simple, no?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

Comboman (895500) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555939)

And that is likewise absurd. If a vendor says, "if you want a contract with us, you need to price your product at $X on the store shelf" - isn't that contractual law, and shouldn't the store be free to accept or refuse to sign the contract, and succeed or fail by their actions?

But refusing means they can't sell the product at all. And if the vendor uses the same "contract" with all the retailers, that means the vendor is now setting the prices, so there is no longer competition between retailers. Whether the price is set artificially high or low doesn't matter to the law (though consumers are only likely to complain about price-fixing if the price is set artificially high, like for gasoline).

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556071)

But refusing means they can't sell the product at all.

Exactly. The person or company who made the product owns it until they sell it. That is called private property, and is a right required for a person to make rational decisions to benefit his life and his values.

And if the vendor uses the same "contract" with all the retailers, that means the vendor is now setting the prices, so there is no longer competition between retailers.

Of course there is still competition. Some stores are more convenient than others, and stores would compete to be as convenient to the customer as possible. At the same time, other vendors make other products that are sold in other stores. It's ridiculous how the so-called "pro-competition" camp is opposed to a single vendor's product being sold at the same price in all stores, but is in favor of all competing vendors' products being sold at the same prices in all stores - anything else is considered anti-competitive. You're in favor of a contrived competition, which violates the rights of people to set the terms of their contracts and the price of their property, and in the long run will mean products staying at higher prices than they would have otherwise.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556401)

You should be modded up because your post is the only one that defends Germany and actually makes any sense.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (5, Informative)

Insanity Defense (1232008) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555611)

But isn't that absurd? Isn't the entire concept of trade that the buyer and seller freely agree to the price of their product? If a store demands a company sell a product to them at a certain price in order to get placement in the store, the company is free to agree to the price or not

This is not the manufacturer and retailer agreeing to a price between them. This is the manufacturer dictating to the retailer what price the RETAILER gets to charge its own customers.

Once the manufacturer has sold a product they should no longer have any control of it. Should the car dealer you bought from be able to dictate the price you charge when you resell it later on? Should the home builder be able to dictate what price a susequent owner sells for? I for one think not. Once the product is sold the prior owner should have no control over the new owners dealing with that product.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556495)

If all retailers agree on keeping the price of a product artificially high that is a cartel and is illegal.

If they do not agree directly, but can rely on the supplier to fix the same price for everyone, the effect is the same and should be sanctioned in the same way.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555953)

That's not the issue in this story. It's under German law, that the supplier and retailer can't agree on what the retail price will be.

Didn't Germany have a law that allowed manufacturers to dictate a retail price that set the minimum a store could charge? The idea was this protected the local shops from the big bad chains by eliminating any price differential.

Has that gone away?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (4, Informative)

Winckle (870180) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555445)

Anti-trust laws exist to protect the market as a whole, in the 90s and early 00s the laws were used to prevent microsoft from using its dominance in one market (Operating Systems) to unfairly crush other businesses with monopolistic business practices. For example Sun's JVM versus Microsoft's JVM, which was a broken implementation designed solely to disrupt Sun and leveraged through Microsoft Windows autoupdate, something Sun could simply not compete with.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555561)

Anti-trust laws exist to protect the market as a whole

I believe they harm the market by undermining the very rights that make the market possible. People must be free to succeed or fail by their own actions. Any company that would attempt to artificially inflate prices would see their previous customers no longer buy their product, and move on to another product.

in the 90s and early 00s the laws were used to prevent microsoft from using its dominance in one market (Operating Systems) to unfairly crush other businesses with monopolistic business practices.

This sentence has no content. There is nothing inherently wrong with a monopoly, so long as the business is good and the company is not coercing you in any way, nor using government force to their benefit. If the latter, then the government - the provider of the force - would be to blame.

For example Sun's JVM versus Microsoft's JVM, which was a broken implementation designed solely to disrupt Sun and leveraged through Microsoft Windows autoupdate, something Sun could simply not compete with.

So clearly the solution is to spread the word about the incompetence of Microsoft, and persuade people to rationally decide to move away from Microsoft products. Clearly the solution is not to remove all responsibility from consumer actions, and leave consumer safety up to the whims of bureaucrats and their highest-paid lobbyists. No?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

ral8158 (947954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556183)

I believe they harm the market by undermining the very rights that make the market possible. People must be free to succeed or fail by their own actions. Any company that would attempt to artificially inflate prices would see their previous customers no longer buy their product, and move on to another product.

I'd suggest you learn your economic theory from something other than an Ayn Rand book: the free market would only function the way you think it does if everyone had equal access to all natural resources and intellectual properties. In reality, monopolies form (not in and of itself illegal) and then abuse their position as a monopoly to manipulate the market in other ways (which is illegal) You are right that monopolies in themselves are not inherently wrong. No one believes they are. It's when they leverage their position as a monopoly to do bad things. Go read up on deadweight loss, predatory pricing, price discrimination, exclusive dealing, and price gouging and learn why anti-trust laws exist, for your own good, please.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556563)

I'd suggest you learn your economic theory from something other than an Ayn Rand book

It is not a matter of "economic theory" but of individual rights. For it to be any other case would mean that the ends justify the means. No ethical system is possible if you are to be judged on the results of your actions rather than the actions themselves (given your knowledge at the time of the actions). It is not possible to answer the question, "What should I do in this situation?" if you must account for unknowable future events and unforeseen consequences.

In reality, monopolies form (not in and of itself illegal) and then abuse their position as a monopoly to manipulate the market in other ways

There is nothing inherently wrong with monopolies, just as there is nothing inherently good about competition. So long as people are free to decide whether to buy something or not, the seller is responsible for their actions. Only when people are able to lobby the government to pass laws in their favor, and the government willingly enforces those laws, do rights actually get violated.

It's when they leverage their position as a monopoly to do bad things.

You will have to provide more specific examples where a company apart from government legislation to their benefit was able to violate the rights of individuals. This would be quite an astonishing example, as it would mean the company openly broke the law and nothing was done about it. If you mean something else by "bad things", let me know.

Go read up on deadweight loss, predatory pricing, price discrimination, exclusive dealing, and price gouging and learn why anti-trust laws exist, for your own good, please.

I have read up on all of these, and found no examples violates individual rights without government intervention (either to stop those rights violations, or to enforce them). What you are doing is trading the illusion of lower prices now for the reality of higher prices (as opposed to artificially inflated prices) later - as a utilitarian you should be able to appreciate that, though you would do better to get more fundamental and understand individual rights.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

TeXMaster (593524) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556279)

I believe they harm the market by undermining the very rights that make the market possible.

Any pure free market (in particular without antitrust law) will in time destroy itself by degenerating into a monopolistic market. In a monopolistic market no new competitors can enter (because an existing monopoly can lower its prices long enough to starve any newcomer).

Any company that would attempt to artificially inflate prices would see their previous customers no longer buy their product, and move on to another product.

This is only true if the company is providing non-essential services AND if there is another, competing product. Which there might not be in case of monopoly (see above)

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Insightful)

Divebus (860563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555761)

in the 90s and early 00s the laws were used to prevent microsoft from using its dominance in one market (Operating Systems) to unfairly crush other businesses

Yeah... how did that turn out?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (3, Informative)

gravesb (967413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555451)

In the United States, anti-trust law usually will look at harm to consumers. Harm to competition is good. Of course, a monopoly makes things a little different. Even with a monopoly and predatory pricing, though, you have to show how that will monetize the harm later on down the road. Predatory pricing is rarely effective because it is so hard to make more money in the long run. This case isn't predatory pricing per se, but I think the theory of harm is generally the same. Anyways, European countries generally have a very different view of antitrust law and the US does, and are much more willing to use it to accomplish abstract concepts of fairness and social justice, as opposed to regulating a market for the benefit of consumers.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555805)

In the United States, anti-trust law usually will look at harm to consumers.

Doesn't that imply that consumers have a right to any product for which they would be considered to be harmed were they not able to have access to it? With every other right - life, liberty, property, pursuit of happiness - for someone to be "harmed" would mean that another entity was preventing them access to their life, to their property, to their choice of actions in their attempt at happiness. Doesn't this implication of a "right" to a product thereby violate the pre-existing rights of individuals to do with their property - the product they make - as they please? This all seems like common sense to me.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (2, Informative)

gravesb (967413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556251)

No. The harm is generally the conversion of consumer surplus into monopoly rent. It has nothing to do with any rights in any Hofeldian or legal sense. It has more to do with the economic theory of monopolies and efficient markets. And, depending on your theory of rights (the one you seem to be trying to assert was valid under Lochner, but has been frowned upon since the 1940's), there will always be a conflict somewhere. Congress decided that the more efficient solution in this case is the best solution, and that's why we look at the harm to consumers.

Re:"Anti-competitive" (3, Insightful)

Hermel (958089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555747)

A law that forbids price fixing leads to lower prices for the consumer as it allows different vendors of a product to compete against each other. However, this also means that the producer looses some of its control over his products.
Most European countries consider this a small price to pay to get the lower prices. Especially if the profits of overpricing go abroad anyway. :)

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555927)

A law that forbids price fixing leads to lower prices for the consumer as it allows different vendors of a product to compete against each other.

This is quite a remarkable statement, and you will have to do both of the following for me to be convinced:

1. Back up your claim with evidence showing that a company would be able to maintain customers despite inflated prices.
2. Show that the ends justify the means - that it is alright to violate the individual rights of the members of a company to offer their property - their product - at a price they decide, and be held responsible for their actions in the success or failure of those prices.

However, this also means that the producer looses some of its control over his products.

In any other situation, losing the freedom of action over your property is grounds for police intervention against the perpetrator. What is different here?

Re:"Anti-competitive" (1)

Hermel (958089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556221)

This is quite a remarkable statement, and you will have to do both of the following for me to be convinced:

I think a can do that for point 1, but not for point 2:

1. Back up your claim with evidence showing that a company would be able to maintain customers despite inflated prices.

If you define 'inflated' as any price level above the level we would have under perfect competition, then this is easy to show:
Many products are sold at different prices in different countries simply because the people in one country have more purchasing power than in the other country. Under perfect competition, this isn't possible. One of the reason there often isn't perfect competition are government granted privileges like patents. So if I want to buy some patent-protected drug, it will often cost me twice as much as in a neighbor country. In a free market, people could start going to the neighbor country and import truckloads of these products, thereby driving the domestic prices down. However, this is forbidden here.

2. Show that the ends justify the means - that it is alright to violate the individual rights of the members of a company to offer their property - their product - at a price they decide, and be held responsible for their actions in the success or failure of those prices.

I'm not sure this is possible to show. It depends on being able to put a number on the effect described in (1). I guess that products in my country (Switzerland) are generally about 10% overpriced, when comparing to Germany, even when taking into account higher wages. Furthermore, this depends on how high you value property rights. This is highly ideological and I could be discussed endlessly. That's why I don't think I can show (2). It's a matter of personal values and ideology.

In any other situation, losing the freedom of action over your property is grounds for police intervention against the perpetrator. What is different here?

One important difference here is that the inflated prices is often only possible because of government granted privileges like patents. In such cases, I don't think we should be too scrupulous in taking something back in return.

something about the author that struck me (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27555379)

"During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina. "

Don't look at the photo if you don't have the strong nerves for it.

9M Euros and all I got was was this stupid .docx (0, Redundant)

TheLeopardsAreComing (1206632) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555389)

They have been caught... again. 9M Euros., Gates:"Put It On The Tab".

Coke is my OS of choice for running %foo (1, Flamebait)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555403)

To all you pathetic dick-wad Microsoft shills furiously typing away at your keyboards so you can get your kickback from the marketing outfit that Microsoft is in turn paying:

Price fixing is ILLEGAL in most western countries as it is ANTI COMPETITIVE and it is CORRUPT. Even for fag0t MS Office Suit[e]s!

Such laws are in place in an effort to ensure a free and open market, to preserve it. It is not "socialism" or "communism" or any other shrill piece of FUD you'd like to spew forth.

And as always the fact that Microsoft, after being convicted on multiple occasions, the fast that it still has not changed and continues with purple monkey dishwasher its monopolistic and anti-competitive practices, is a fast that you carry on apparently OBLIVIOUS of. You should PRAISE him, the LORD [Bill Gates], fuckers! Of course, that is not surprising since future Mars astronauts are a part of that anti-competitive structure and you wouldn't be caught dead ever speaking one ounce of truth about Microsoft's real practices, ever.

=Smidge=

Measly 9 million Euros (4, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555421)

I have no idea what taxes are like in Europe, but I'd have to imagine that that's probably significantly less than the amount of sales tax collected on the sale of those licenses. At that point, it's just another minor cost of doing business. No wonder MS didn't feel a need to appeal.

huh? (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555433)

Who were they trying to undercut? What other retail productivity suites are still on the shelves?

Re:huh? (1)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555605)

IBM's Lotus, the german-created StarOffice, WordPerfect Office...

Your very answer demonstrates the problem.

Re:huh? (1)

emocomputerjock (1099941) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555665)

Get this - Corel is still out there. The legal world in the States is absolutely dependent on it. I couldn't believe it either, but they still make productivity software.

Re:huh? (1)

TeXMaster (593524) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556411)

In fact, Corel's WordPerfect Office has always been significantly better than MSO (at least for the parts I've been using, namely the WordPerfect and Quattro Pro) [and no, it's not as perfect as the name would suggest, sadly]

Re:huh? (1)

bahstid (927038) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555753)

No, its not about them undercutting other productivity suites, its about them undercutting other retailers who are also selling MS Office... Maybe a car analogy. I am a car manufacturer and you are a dealer. I sell you cars for a fantastic $1000 a pop, if you agree to buy 100 units. After we've shaken hands and exchanged cash, I go to the guy next door to you and arrange it so that they can sell their 100 hundred units at a floor-price of $500. Guess you are going to have a little bit of trouble moving your 100 "super-cheap" specials, yes?

9m euros = cheap (3, Insightful)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555491)

Challenging a 9m euro fine would be more expensive (lawyer fees) than just eating the fine, so I can understand their decision.

It doesn't mean guilt... but they might be guilty anyway, so meh.

Notthing to see here (Re:9m euros = cheap) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27555675)

Yup. This is just a German law that doesn't exists anywhere else. And based on the reactions of this story so far, SEEN AS ABSOLUTELY ABSURD TO EVERY OTHER NATION of people. It's common practice, from what I've gathered, for companies to set what I've commonly seen refered to as "Suggested Retail Price."

Shit, almost everything in America by a larger corporation has such a "suggested retail price." I don't see how that could ever be construed as anti-competitive, but leave it to the German's to figure out how it is. Absolute Retardedness, it doesn't take a genius to realize that is simple good business practice.

Re:Notthing to see here (Re:9m euros = cheap) (1)

BeeRockxs (782462) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555897)

Suggested Retail Price != you have to sell it at this price, and not at any lower price

Re:9m euros = cheap (1)

AnalPerfume (1356177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555951)

The exposure as evidence of even more crimes with a paper trail is very likely a large factor in deciding to just close this threat off and accept the fine. Anything from these investigations that becomes public knowledge can be used against them in other court cases around the world. It's just in one country after all, albeit a large rich one. Now we need to see other countries investigate the same practices, unless we're gullible enough to believe that only went on in Germany.

what was the theory of harm (1)

gravesb (967413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555507)

I don't understand what the theory of harm here is. MS was obviously attempting to capture more of its monopoly rent, but there are other ways to do so that aren't illegal, so I'm not sure what point this particular law serves. Why is it bad for retailers and suppliers to set prices? Don't large internet retailers help set market prices in a de facto sense, anyway? If MS sells the suite directly from its website, doesn't that cap what a retailers can charge? European antitrust law is confusing. I wonder what the additional compliance costs are? Is Germany's desire to protect small retailers worth how those costs?

Re:what was the theory of harm (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555687)

If MS sells the suite directly from its website, doesn't that cap what a retailers can charge?

Not really. People are stupid. Example: the Capresso Infinity conical burr coffee grinder in black ABS plastic sells for $89 on the manufacturer's website. Other manufacturers also sell the same grinder for $89. But there's a few vendors like this one [allespressomachines.com] that are selling it for $139, while claiming a "list price" of $219. (Don't buy from that link).

Re:what was the theory of harm (1)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556039)

"Not every contact between supplier and retailer regarding resale prices constitutes an illegal concerted practice within the meaning of Section 1 ARC. However, this must not lead to a form of coordination where the supplier actively tries to coordinate the pricing activities of the retailer and thus retailer and supplier agree on future actions of the retailer. In the present case, this boundary has been crossed [cnet.com] "

Re:what was the theory of harm (1)

gravesb (967413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556181)

Right, I read the article. That still doesn't answer the question, who got hurt? What is the economic theory underlying that statute?

Laugh it up Mein Herr (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555563)

Now Microsoft will simply jack up the price of the German version of Office by about 20 Euro.

Re:Laugh it up Mein Herr (2, Interesting)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555889)

No, it means the retailers are free to determine the price vs. the wholesale price. Some of the cheaper ones will sell it cheaper than they do currently, and some will sell it at RRP or higher. Competition in the market is restored.

Microsoft don't get to set the price. That's the point. The can recommend one but they cannot make retailers sell at that price.

Wrong (0)

TheNormal (1499911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555629)

Europe is doing to our companies what the US is doing to our companies: spreading the wealth around/robbing them. Call it whatever you like. Now, I don't use Microsoft products. I think their business and development models are suited to a by-gone age (I am mostly alone in thinking that way), and need an BIG update. But I know they provide a lot of technologies to companies and integrated business solutions on a comprehensive scale that no other company in the world is capable of rivaling. They can be sued and fined for anti-trust violations, but it's hard to justify that when there are no existing competitors. What I mean by that is that no one sees business quite the way Bill Gates sees it. Same with Steve Jobs. Bill Gate's vision is entirely unique and effective. Take it from a guy who's starting a business of his own (very small): the business world has lots of good people who enjoy competition, and even get concerned when their competition doesn't do well. The business executive can be the most generous and humble person in the world. I can provide many examples, not the least of which is The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They don't like being slapped around by governments. It isn't that governments don't know what they're doing, it's that they don't care. Governments have two things in mind: agenda and votes, and they're willing to throw any businessperson to the dogs to get either. And BTW: 9M Euros is a lot, even to Microsoft. I just can't bring myself to believe this fine is just.

It will take them a shole 3 hours to recoup (4, Informative)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555749)

According to Microsoft's 1st quarter 2009 earnings report [microsoft.com] , net income for the quarter was 4.37 billion US$.

Assuming a quarter has 90 days (and not distinguishing between working and non working days), MS makes
4370000000 / (90 * 24 * 60) = 33719 US$/minute
which means that Microsoft will make the 12.000.000 US$ in less than 7 hours - and this including non-working days, and assuming 24-hour days.

If you're not MS, you may weep now.

Suggested Retail Price (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27555777)

I'm not sure my other comment will be seen as /. seems to have issues displaying all comments (and just generally browsing comments) in IE8, even with compatibility mode (anyone know how to fix this?)

Anyway, "suggested retail price" (SRP). It's always been around, and is what is practiced in America. How is it any different in Germany? A store will mostl likely sell a product based on it's suggested retail price for obvious reasons. But if a store is able to procure a bulk quantity, they are free to price the individual copies less than the SRP. That wouldn't be "coercing" the store at all, they were free to choose how money to invest in the product for their store shelves. So, I need help understanding this inane concept. Thanks!

Issue fines in percents instead? (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555883)

I am wondering about one thing:

Why are we still issuing fines in currency? Obviously, it should be percents of currency. Like percents of wages, income, revenue or whatever likes. Why are we not doing that? It would make it more fair, as a fine of 10% on the income would teach equally good lesson to a company with $10B income as to a company with $10M income. Isn't the whole point of fining to punish and make sure it does not happen again? Because 9M Euros for Microsoft is hardly a lesson more like a routine job for their accountants. Its what they spend on buying PostIt notes for their employees.

Fining them with 10% of their income, would cost them about $6B, which would more likely persuade their suits to not try and play the price fixing game.

Re:Issue fines in percents instead? (2, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555923)

Fining them $6B would mean they'd appeal it and it'd ending up being an expensive legal mess. You want to fine enough that it destroys the extra profit made, but not enough that it's worth them rolling out the lawyers.

That'll show them! (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 5 years ago | (#27555957)

Assuming they make less than 9 million Euros from price fixing and anti-competitive practices, that is...

If the US won't break up microsoft... (1)

mrphoton (1349555) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556015)

I just wish the EU would take a harder line on Microsoft. Microsoft is not a European company,they are a monopoly extorting cash from EU citizens. Can you imagine if Ford was the only car maker in Europe. We would just not put up with it. I don't see why we should allow MS to import their products at all. At the very least we should impose very high import tariffs.

Cheap (5, Insightful)

Kynde (324134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27556325)

If parking tickets where 2cents I could park where ever I'd like. I think the same holds for Microsoft in this case.

WOW.."big" penalty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27556539)

Microsoft will say, "yeah, take my 10M bill and give the change".....

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