South Africa’s competition regulator to probe Microsoft over anti-competitive complaints

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April 5, 2024
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2 min read
Microsoft building

The news: 

  • The South African Competition Commission may launch a formal investigation into Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform owned by Microsoft Corporation, for anti-competitive practices. 
  • The Southern African nation's antitrust watchdog is reportedly set to investigate the US-based multinational over reports that it is overcharging businesses in the country that plan to switch to other providers. 
  • The investigation, which may lead to a legal dispute, could see the cloud business slapped with a fine of up to 10% of its revenue in South Africa. 

The investigation, expected to commence in a matter of days, comes amid growing concerns from regulators across the globe that the US tech giant is abusing its market power to squeeze out rivals.

Officials from the country's commission are still investigating whether innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI) models and digital and social media platforms managed by global providers, including Microsoft's Bing, are undermining the ability of the country's news and media companies to generate revenue. 

However, Microsoft has stated that it is not aware of any complaints that the competition authority in South Africa has received. But the company said it was ready and willing to answer any questions about its software licencing policy. 

According to a spokesperson for the company, “Microsoft implemented software licensing changes two years ago, which apply globally and enable South African customers to bring their Microsoft software licences to any South African cloud provider at no additional cost.”

Microsoft Azure, formerly Windows Azure, enables individuals and businesses to access, manage, and develop applications and services via global data centres.

The  South African Competition Commission has yet to offer any comments on the issue. 

Nonetheless, other international regulators have looked into Azure outside of South Africa. One such regulator is the European Union (EU), whose competition authority, the European Commission, officially looked into possible anti-competitive behaviour. 

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has also launched a market investigation into the provision of public cloud infrastructure, focusing on how major players like Microsoft may be limiting competition and enforcing monopolies.

Following the lead of similar regulators globally, the South African watchdog has taken firm action against Big Tech in recent years, addressing firms' alleged abuses of market power.In 2023, the country’s competition regulator ordered Google to enhance visibility for smaller South African-based businesses in search results and support smaller platforms to compete favourably.

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