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Microsoft kickstarts settlement discussions with European cloud companies over antitrust complaints

Microsoft has kickstarted settlement discussions with European not-for-profit trade association Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe (CISPE), some six months after CISPE filed an antitrust complaint alleging that Microsoft was using its dominance in business software to tether customers to its Azure cloud platform.

The news comes less than a month after news emerged that Microsoft was close to settling a separate complaint with a trio of cloud organizations in Europe, including France’s OVHcloud, Italy’s Aruba and Denmark’s industry association Danish Cloud Community. The trio filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission (EC) last March, alleging that Microsoft made it more expensive to run its software in rival clouds compared to its own Azure platform, while also making it technically more difficult to run some of the programs.

While both OVHcloud and Aruba are members of CISPE, it seems that CISPE elected to launch a separate antitrust case against Microsoft, noting at the time that it wanted to “give a voice to those members without the resources to file their own complaints, or for whom the fear of retaliation is too great to risk standing alone.”

It is worth noting here, however, that Amazon’s cloud juggernaut AWS is also a member of CISPE, so this may not be as much a David versus Goliath battle as first seems.

At any rate, CISPE confirmed today that Microsoft has approached it with an “outline settlement agreement,” with its member companies now starting negotiations to what CISPE says it hopes will “return fair competition to the European cloud infrastructure sector.”

Red lines

Details are still rather vague at this stage, with CISPE merely saying that Microsoft has made some proposals around its licensing terms. But the organization notes that it has “several red lines” which Microsoft must satisfy before any deal can be reached. For example, it said that any deal that is ultimately reached should be applicable to all cloud infrastructure providers and customers in Europe, and it needs to be implemented in a way that makes Microsoft accountable for any commitments it makes far into the future.

“Any business must have the right to run the software they license on the cloud of their choice, without financial or technical penalties,” CISPE notes. “[And] Any settlement must be transparent and clear, open to scrutiny, future-proof and auditable for compliance over time.”

Even if Microsoft does reach a settlement with CISPE, the company is still facing the heat from other quarters over its cloud practices. Google recently slammed Microsoft’s impending settlement with OVHcloud, Aruba and Danish Cloud Community, accusing Microsoft of antitrust practices while insinuating that a deal specifically with smaller cloud rivals might not be to Google’s advantage.

The U.K., meanwhile, is readying an investigation into the domestic cloud infrastructure market, with the practices of Amazon and Microsoft in particular in its crosshairs. Regulator Ofcom said that it has identified practices that make it more difficult for businesses to switch between cloud providers, or even adopt a hybrid approach.

Back across the water in the EU, CISPE says there is “still a long way to go” before anything is agreed, and there are “several important issues” that are still to be addressed.

“Our members are scrutinizing the proposed changes and settlement agreement and will provide feedback to Microsoft in the coming days, including on key elements that are required to solve sector-wide issues,” CISPE added.

TechCrunch has reached out to Microsoft for comment, and will update here if, or when, we hear back.

Microsoft kickstarts settlement discussions with European cloud companies over antitrust complaints by Paul Sawers originally published on TechCrunch

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