China antitrust law may target Microsoft -report

HONG KONG, June 18 (Reuters) - Chinese companies could sue Microsoft Corp MSFT.O under a new antitrust law which will come into effect on Aug. 1, the Shanghai Securities News said on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

The newspaper said China’s State Intellectual Property Office was organising companies to bring lawsuits to challenge Microsoft’s pricing and the dominance of its products on the Chinese market.

“Microsoft Windows retails at 1,000-2,000 yuan ($145-$290) and its Office software suite at 4,000-5,000 yuan, which together is more than the cost of a computer,” one source told the newspaper.

“It is not right for an international company to use its monopoly position to sell software at outrageous prices while criticising the Chinese people’s awareness of copyright law.”

An antitrust lawyer told Reuters that although the new law will come into effect in six weeks, the final version has not yet been published. But oversight of domestic competition was likely to remain with officials from the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC).

“Under the law, the companies can complain against companies abusing a dominant position, but SAIC is not obliged to act,” said the lawyer, who asked not to be named.

“Microsoft’s case has been such a saga in the European Union, and I think if SAIC are willing to investigate at all, they will have to spend a lot of resources and time on it.

“It would be a political decision. At a certain time, they may want to pick one company and make an investigation. It always looks good on the front pages.”

Nobody at Microsoft in China was immediately available to comment.