Letter to Industry Minister : Microsoft in Canada

A further open email to The Hon. Brian Tobin, M.P., P.C. regarding Microsoft in Canada

Dear Minister,

We wrote to you in August seeking information about the Government of Canada's actions with respect to the anti competitive conduct of Microsoft.

Recently, there are indications that the United States Department of Justice and some of the states have accepted a weakened settlement with Microsoft.  Our concern is whether this settlement meets the Government of Canada's objective of achieving an open, fair and competitive market in Canada.

An analysis of the proposed settlement has been made by Professor Lawrence Lessig in the New York Times of November 9[1], under the title It's Still a Safe World for Microsoft.  In the Op-ed article, he concludes that the settlement is weaker than one reached earlier in the four year court process, and there is no satisfactory measure to ensure compliance.

In a Globe and Mail report of November 8[2], titled Advantage: Microsoft, Professor Michael Geist is quoted as saying "In many respects, [the government] settled for less than they could have gotten a year ago".  The article goes on to say that many of the provisions that do seem to have some bite are defanged by restrictive definitions elsewhere.

Clearly, there are grounds for concern that the new administration in Washington is not fully and effectively applying competition law in the United States.

The European Competition Commissioner is, of course, pursuing his investigation.

Of particular interest to Canadians is that Microsoft has been classified as a monopoly by the antitrust authority in Israel.   Consequently, Microsoft faces restrictions on its business practices in that country.  This was reported in Ha'aretz of November 9[3].  It provides an example of another country which is much smaller than the U.S. and yet it still moves to preserve fair competition.

Our August letter raised a number of specific issues:

  • Has there been any investigation of Microsoft in Canada?
  • Are the present laws of Canada adequate to protect Canadians from the inappropriate business practices of Microsoft?
  • If these are not adequate, are proposals being prepared for Parliament to rectify this situation?
Since this corporation has flagrantly breached the American competition law, it is reasonable to assume that the company has behaved in a similar manner in Canada and thus an investigation is justified.  I am sure you will understand our concern that Canada may not be adequately protected.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours truly

Colin J. Williams

On behalf of the following persons:

Emeritus Professor Calvin C, Gotlieb
Department of Computer Science
University of Toronto

Professor Andrew Clement
Faculty of Information Studies and Department of
Computer Science
University of Toronto

D. Hugh Redelmeier

Russell McOrmond,
Proprietor, FLORA Community Consulting http://www.flora.ca

Colin J. Williams
Brockville, ON


[1] It's Still a Safe World for Microsoft
[2] Advantage: Microsoft
[3] Microsoft is a monopoly in Israel