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Pressure Still on Microsoft in S. Korea

Posted by iTech - 2005-10-27

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea's antitrust watchdog said Wednesday it won't drop its investigation into allegations Microsoft Corp. engaged in unfair trade practices even if the U.S. software giant reaches an accord with the South Korean company that first brought the complaint.
"We have been promoting competition in markets and enhancing consumer benefits to strengthen the national economy," the Fair Trade Commission said in a statement. "In this respect, we will continue to assess the Microsoft case regardless of whether it and Daum Communications reach an agreement."

The commission was responding to a report Wednesday in the Seoul Economic Daily that Microsoft and Daum Communications Corp. are trying to work out a settlement and that industry expectations for one are high. Microsoft representatives in Seoul couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Daum, a South Korean Internet portal, filed a complaint to the commission in 2001 alleging that Microsoft violated trade rules by tying its instant messenger software to Windows.

Earlier this month, U.S. company RealNetworks Inc. reached a $761 million legal settlement with Microsoft that ended all their antitrust disputes worldwide.

The commission, which was holding its latest hearing into the Microsoft case Wednesday, said at the time of last month's settlement that it would continue its investigation.

South Korea can order "corrective measures" such as separating the bundled software if Microsoft is found to have engaged in unfair practices in the country. Fines of up to 5 percent of total sales in the country for Windows software during the period of any unfair practices can also be levied.

Microsoft officials have said they may take the case to court if the commission rules against the company.

Seattle-base RealNetworks sued in the United States in December 2003, accusing Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft of illegally forcing Windows users to accept Microsoft's digital Media Player. RealNetworks said its own player suffered as a result.

The European Union ordered Microsoft in March 2004 to pay 497 million euros ($601 million), share code with rivals and offer an unbundled version of Windows without the Media Player software. The Court of First Instance, the EU's second-highest court, has not yet set a date to hear Microsoft's appeal.

The EU said Microsoft's settlement with RealNetworks was irrelevant to the pending case.

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