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Chinese regulators launch Microsoft anti-trust probe

Chinese regulators have said an anti-trust investigation they have launched into Microsoft should not be obstructed “in any way”, the country’s state run Xinhua news agency has reported.

According to Xinhua, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) has launched the probe into Microsoft China Company Ltd and three of its branches in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

Xinhua said the SAIC seized documents, emails and other data from computers and servers in raids on Microsoft offices in China, but the SAIC had been unable to complete its investigation because “key Microsoft personnel were not in China or could not be reached”.

The SAIC has been investigating complaints that Microsoft “used tie-in sales and verification codes in its Windows operating system and Microsoft Office software suite, practices that may have breached China's anti-monopoly law”, Xinhua said.

Microsoft is “suspected of not fully disclosing information of its Windows operating system and Microsoft Office application, causing incompatibility problems”, Xinhua said. “According to Chinese law, incompatibility without advance warning to customers could be regarded (as) anti-competitive.”

However, Microsoft in China told Xinhua that it has always abided by laws and regulations in the country and would "actively answer" any questions from the SAIC.

China’s anti-monopoly law took effect in August 2008. According to the China Research Center (CRC), the legislation was the first comprehensive anti-trust law in the history of the People’s Republic of China.

The CRC said: “While the law is a major step in establishing a system of commercial law consistent with international norms, the text and the system that will interpret and apply it raise serious concerns about whether the law will, in practice, be used primarily to protect competition and consumer welfare in China, or whether it will be used as a protectionist device to favour state-owned enterprises and privatised indigenous companies in Chinese markets.”

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