EU opens Microsoft Teams probe following Slack complaint

The watchdog has suggested there could be an antitrust case on the horizon after sending a questionnaire to Microsoft Teams rivals

Antitrust regulators from the European Commission (EC) are reportedly asking Microsoft's rivals if Teams has more market clout because it is bundled in with the company's popular Office suite of services. 

The EC appears to be following up on a complaint by Slack with a questionnaire, seen by Reuters, that has been sent to Microsoft's rivals.

Slack's complaint was formally filed more than a year ago and accused Microsoft of "illegally" bundling the Teams app into its market-dominant productivity suite. The communications platform argued that this hampers competition because it is unremovable from the software suite, essentially forcing the app upon users. 

At the time, Slack said it was confident of the "merits" of its own product, but said it couldn't ignore the "illegal behaviour" that deprives customers of access to the tools and services they want. The company said it simply wanted fair competition and asked the EC to be a neutral referee in a legal culmination of a very long tit-for-tat war between the two companies.

The EC had been very quiet on the subject, only confirming that it had received a complaint back in June, although according to the questionnaire seen by Reuters, it is looking at the market from 2016 to 2021. This would cover a year before Teams was launched (2017) and the four years after where it has rapidly grown.  

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The Commission is reportedly asking if bundled products give companies access to data that could increase their market power and make it harder for rivals to compete, and is also keen to hear about the barriers to entry and expansion in the workplace apps market. What's more, participants were asked for a list of customers who have switched to Microsoft Teams or its bundled Office package. 

Slack, which is a much older platform, has always maintained that Teams was a "poor copy" of its product and its CEO Stewart Butterfield has made various comments to that effect. Microsoft has not engaged in the war of words as much, but it has previously been fined by the EC for cases that involve tying services in other practices.  

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