Microsoft Faces South African Complaint as Cloud Probes Grow

Regulators will accuse Microsoft of charging too much for businesses to switch their cloud licenses, Bloomberg reports.

Bloomberg News

April 5, 2024

2 Min Read
Microsoft logo on a PC laptop

(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft’s Azure cloud business is set to be hit by a formal complaint from South African antitrust watchdogs amid growing concerns from regulators across the world that the US tech giant is abusing its market power to squeeze out rivals.

The South African Competition Commission will accuse Microsoft of charging too much for businesses to switch their cloud licenses to other vendors, according to people familiar with the filing, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The move, likely in the coming days, could set the stage for a legal battle that may end up with a fine of up to 10% of the firm’s revenue in the African nation.   

Microsoft’s Azure cloud business has also been targeted by other global regulators – including the European Union, where it is currently subject to an informal investigation from watchdogs. 

The UK’s competition regulator has also started a probe into the cloud market, where it is examining in part how Microsoft’s Azure terms may be limiting competition.  

Microsoft said the company was not aware of a complaint by the South African competition authority, but was standing ready to answer any questions about their software licensing policies. 

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

Related:MWC 2024: Microsoft Vows Fair AI Practices Amid Antitrust Scrutiny

The South African regulator declined to immediately comment.

Like regulators across the world, the South African watchdog has been cracking down on Big Tech in recent years and firms’ alleged abuses of market power.

Last year, Google was ordered to improve visibility for smaller South African companies in search results and to pay out for the training of smaller platforms. 

Officials are currently probing whether artificial intelligence models, digital and social media platforms managed by services including Microsoft’s Bing are limiting the nation’s news and media companies’ ability to generate revenue.

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