Senators ask FTC to see if Microsoft meets antitrust pact

Microsoft may be forced to revisit the antitrust allgeayions which proved so irksome in 1994. Three US Senators want the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine whether Microsoft has complied with the 1994 consent decree that settled Justice Department antitrust allegations against it. Microsoft says it's more dirty pool from Netscape.

Three US Senators want the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine whether Microsoft has complied with the 1994 consent decree that settled Justice Department antitrust allegations against it.

Senators Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, and Craig Thomas, Republican of Wyoming, made the request after being contacted by a number of companies concerning antitrust allegations, according to Matt Raymond, a spokesman for Burns.

The request came in a letter, dated June 25, which does not detail the allegations or which companies have made them. Netscape and Gateway 2000 have been the most vocal complainers, Raymond said.

Microsoft believes it is fully complying with the consent decree, according to a Microsoft spokesman. It sees the senators' letter as just another Netscape attempt to use government intervention to attack it, he said.

"This is business as usual for Netscape," says Mark Murray, Microsoft spokesman. "Again and again they have tried to enlist the federal government in attacking Microsoft rather than compete on the quality of our products."

Also last week, two other senators - Slade Gorton, Republican of Washington and John McCain, Republican of Arizona - sent around a letter urging other senators not to support Burns' initiative. They said, in a letter dated June 27, that it would not be fair to ask the FTC to "second-guess the Department of Justice in its enforcement of a Consent Decree," given that the "unspecified complaints" were by "unnamed parties."

Burns' letter, however, states that the senators are not "commenting upon the merits of any of the claims that have been published concerning [Microsoft's] alleged antitrust violations."

"We ask simply that the claims be carefully reviewed by the FTC," the Burns letter states.

The Justice Department currently has two Microsoft-related investigations pending, Murray says. One, spurred by Netscape's previous complaints, is looking into its Internet software marketing practices, while the other is investigating Microsoft's planned purchase of WebTV Networks Inc.

Netscape, Gateway and the FTC could not be reached immediately for comment.

The FTC, in Washington, D.C., can be reached on the World Wide Web at http://www.ftc.gov/.

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