The Quest for Appropriate Remedies in the Microsoft Antitrust EU Cases: A Comparative Appraisal
The Microsoft cases in the United States and in Europe have been influential in determining the contours of the substantive liability standards for dominant firms in US antitrust law and in EC Competition law. The competition law remedies that were adopted, following the finding of liability, seem, however, to constitute the main measure for the “success” of the case(s). An important disagreement exists between those arguing that the remedies put in place failed to address the roots of the competition law violation identified in the liability decision and others who advance the view that the remedies were far-reaching and that their alleged failure demonstrates the weakness of the liability claim. This study evaluates these claims by examining the variety of remedies that were finally imposed in the European Microsoft cases, from a comparative perspective. The study begins with a discussion of the roots of the Microsoft issues in Europe and the consequent choice of a remedial approach by the Commission and the Court. It then explores the effectiveness of the remedies in achieving the aims that were set. The non-consideration of the structural remedy in the European case and the pros and cons of developing such a remedy in the future are briefly discussed before more emphasis is put on alternative remedies (competition and non-competition law ones) that have been suggested in the literature. The study concludes by discussing the fit between the remedy and the theory of consumer harm that led to the finding of liability and questions a total dissociation between the two. We believe that it is important to think seriously about potential remedies before litigation begins. However, we do not require an ex ante identification of an appropriate remedy by the plaintiffs, since this could lead to underenforcement or overenforcement.
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