South Korea: antitrust watchdog fines Microsoft over alleged unfair practices

South Korean antitrust regulators on Wednesday ruled that Microsoft Corp. abused its market dominance, fined it 33 billion won (US$32 million; Ђ27 million) and ordered the software giant to offer alternative versions of Windows. "The Korea Fair Trade Commission found such tying practices liable because they constitute abuse of market dominant position and unfair trade practices under monopoly regulations and the Fair Trade Act," Kang Chul-kyu, the commission's chairman, told reporters.

The ruling comes after the U.S. software giant reached separate settlements with companies that then withdrew the complaints that led to the investigation. The companies had complained that Microsoft violated trade rules by tying its instant messenger software to Windows.

The commission ordered Microsoft to offer two versions of Windows in South Korea within 180 days. One version must be stripped of the Windows Media Player and Instant Messenger software, while the other version must come with links to Web pages that allow consumers to download competing versions of such software, the commission said.

The corrective measures will remain effective for 10 years and after 5 years, Microsoft will have the opportunity each year to request a review of the remedy to account for changes in the market environment, the commission said.

The European Union ordered Microsoft in March 2004 to pay euro497 million (US$586 million), share code with rivals and offer a version of Windows without Media Player software. Microsoft is appealing that ruling. AP reports. P.T.

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