British Government Educational Agency Refers Its Interoperability Complaint to the European Commission
British Government Educational Agency Refers Its Interoperability Complaint to the European Commission British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) welcomes the European Commission's antitrust investigation of Microsoft concerning interoperability and confirms it has recently referred its interoperability complaint and supporting evidence to the Commission.
In October 2007 Becta complained to the UK competition regulator – the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) - alleging:
- anti-competitive licensing practices by Microsoft in the schools software marketplace
- the existence of impediments to effective interoperability in relation to Microsoft's Office 2007 product.
In January 2008 the European Commission announced that it was initiating a formal investigation in relation to Microsoft's approach to interoperability across a number of areas, including:
" .. whether Microsoft's new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in MS Office, is sufficiently interoperable with competitors' products."
Following discussions with the OFT, Becta has now referred its interoperability complaint and related evidence to the European Commission in support of the Commission's wider investigation. At a recent meeting with the Commission Becta set out its key areas of concern and their impact on the UK education system.
Becta believes that impediments to interoperability limit choice. In the context of the education system this can result in higher prices and a range of other unsatisfactory effects which have a negative impact on wider policy initiatives, including improving educational outcomes, facilitating home school links and addressing the digital divide.
Commenting after the recent meeting with the Commission to discuss Becta’s detailed concerns, Dr Stephen Lucey, Becta's Executive Director of Strategic Technologies, said:
"It is not just the interests of competitors and the wider marketplace that are damaged when barriers to effective interoperability are created. Such barriers can also damage the interests of education and training organisations, learners, teachers and parents.
I therefore very much welcome the decision by the Commission to conduct a wide ranging investigation."
Indicating the rationale for the decision to complain to the regulators Dr Lucey stated:
"Intervention via the competition authorities is not our preferred approach. Ideally we prefer to address interoperability issues by working in close partnership with the wider industry. We are successfully addressing a range of other interoperability challenges through this type of approach."
Dr Lucey confirmed that the other aspect of Becta's complaint, which relates to Microsoft's School Agreement licensing model, remains under active consideration by the OFT.
Source: BECTA Press Release