Microsoft may charge different prices for Office with or without Teams

How to appease antitrust regulators by looking like you're doing something

Microsoft is putting forward a plan to charge customers different prices for Office if it does or doesn’t come with Teams - the latest twist in its campaign to head off an EU antitrust probe at the pass.

Last month, sources said the Redmond-based biz was considering whether to stop bundling Teams with Office following complaints by several businesses, including Slack, that Microsoft had tied the messaging app to its market dominant productivity suite, forcing it on customers, locking out rivals and obfuscating the cost for users.

The suggestion was that Microsoft would untether the app that comes with Microsoft 365 or Office 365. Now the notion proposed is, according to Reuters, for the software giant to tweak the price lists.

Asked about the latest concession, understood to be offered to the competition regulators with the EU, a Microsoft spokesperson sent us the same line as it used last month.

“We are mindful of our responsibilities in the EU as am major technology company. We continue to engage cooperatively with the Commission in its investigation and are open to pragmatic solutions that address its concerns and serve customers well.

Back in 2020 during its pre-Salesforce ownership days, Slack didn’t hold back in its criticism of how Microsoft was trying to up growth rates for Teams. Slack said it filed a competition compliant to the EC against its rival, saying it “simply wants fair competition and a level playing field.”

A spokesperson at the EU told The Register today: “We have received several complaints regarding Microsoft, including by Slack regarding Microsoft’s conduct in relation to its Teams product. The assessment is ongoing so we can’t comment further.”

We asked Slack parent Salesforce to comment but it refused last month and declined to comment on our latest request.

Other complaints filed with the EU include several by Nextcloud, a German cloud provider that is unhappy with the way Microsoft bundles OneDrive with the Windows OS; and cases brought by OVHcloud, Danish Cloud Community and Aruba S.p.a. The last three pertained to complaints about Microsoft’s policies for software licensing in the cloud and were settled confidentially in March.

A source close to the matter said Microsoft is trying to tidy things up with individual businesses, “we don’t believe secret unilateral offers are the way to solve sector-wide issues.”

“Any agreement must be principle-based and apply to all cloud infrastructure providers operating in Europe,” they said, and it “must benefit all customers in Europe… Any settlement must be transparent and clear, open to scrutiny, future-proof and auditable for compliance over time.”

Good luck with that. The German competition authorities are also inspecting the dominance of Microsoft in the country, initiating proceedings in March, but the matter is ongoing and the Bundeskartellamt refused to comment today.

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