Slack Complains of Microsoft’s Anticompetitive Behavior to European Commission

Last week, Slack Technologies, Inc., announced that it filed a complaint against Microsoft Corporation before the European Commission (EC) for anticompetitive practices. Slack offers a “channel-based messaging platform,” providing a “a secure, enterprise-grade environment that can scale with the largest companies in the world,” according to its EC transparency register profile. Microsoft offers a competing product, Teams, which Slack claims has been unlawfully tied to other Microsoft products, running afoul of EU competition laws.

According to Slack’s July 22 press release, Microsoft has abused its dominance in the relevant software markets. Specifically, Microsoft “illegally tied its Teams product into its market-dominant Office productivity suite, force installing it for millions, blocking its removal, and hiding the true cost to enterprise customers,” the release said.

General Counsel for Slack, David Schellhase, commented that “Microsoft is reverting to past behavior. They created a weak, copycat product and tied it to their dominant Office product, force installing it and blocking its removal, a carbon copy of their illegal behavior during the ‘browser wars.’” By asking the EC to investigate, Slack hopes to “ensure Microsoft cannot continue to illegally leverage its power from one market to another by bundling or tying products.”

Speaking about the filing, Jonathan Prince, Vice President of Communications and Policy at Slack, said in a statement, “… this is much bigger than Slack versus Microsoft – this is a proxy for two very different philosophies for the future of digital ecosystems, gateways versus gatekeepers… We want to be the 2% of your software budget that makes the other 98% more valuable; [Microsoft] want[s] 100% of your budget every time.”

According to a TechCrunch article by Natasha Lomas and Alex Wilhelm, the complaint is the latest strike in a long-standing spat between the companies. When Microsoft launched Teams in 2016, Slack ran a newspaper advertisement poking fun at Microsoft and welcoming their competing product to the scene.

Since then, the Teams product has gained footing. Though both companies have experienced a boost in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as demand for virtual office and connectivity software has soared, Teams is outperforming Slack. Microsoft’s product reached 75 million daily active users in April 2020, nearly doubling its March figure of 44 million, and much more Slack’s 12.5 million daily active users in March (the latest figure available) according to TechCrunch.