September 26, 2011 / 4:21 PM / 8 years ago

EU should note Microsoft, Skype bundling risks-rival

* Messagenet says EU should block anticompetitive bundling

* Italian rival says interoperability should be ensured

* EU Commission to decide on Microsoft, Skype deal by Oct. 7

* U.S. antitrust regulators cleared deal in June

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS, Sept 26 (Reuters) - EU regulators now vetting Microsoft’s bid to buy Skype should block any anti-competitive bundling of Microsoft’s Windows software with the Internet phone service, a Skype rival said on Monday.

Italian fixed-line and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephone provider Messagenet SpA also urged the European Commission to ensure that the companies supply data allowing competitors to provide products that will function with Skype’s software.

Microsoft’s $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, its biggest-ever, would enable the U.S. software company’s new Windows Phones to compete directly with Google and Apple smartphones which already feature video chat.

The deal was approved by U.S. antitrust regulators in June. EU approval is one of the remaining regulatory hurdles before the deal can be finalised. Antitrust lawyers said they do not see any major competition concerns.

Messagenet called on the Commission in a letter to take note of the dominant position Skype would have if it was acquired by Microsoft, as well as the possibility that rivals could be shut out of the markets.

“(An) anticompetitive bundling of Skype into the Microsoft operating system should be prohibited in any case,” the company said in the letter obtained by Reuters.

Messagenet said the companies should be obliged to disclose the relevant interoperability data to competitors.

The European Commission is scheduled to decide by Oct. 7 whether to clear the deal. Earlier this month, it asked third parties to comment on the case.

Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres said the regulator was studying the observations from third parties.

In December 2009, Microsoft settled a lengthy Commission investigation into the linkage between its Internet Explorer web browser and its Windows operating system by agreeing to let consumers choose their browser from a range.

Separately, Microsoft has been hit with a total of 1.68 billion euros ($2.25 billion) in fines by the regulator in recent years for other offences. ($1=.7463 Euro) (Writing by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Sebastian Moffett)

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