Microsoft to face competition probe in South Africa

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

The Competition Commission will accuse Microsoft of charging too much for businesses to switch their cloud licences 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 South Africa.

Microsoft’s Azure cloud business has also been targeted by other global regulators — including the EU, 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 didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The Competition Commission 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.

Media probe

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.

Read: Microsoft to separate Teams and Office globally

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.  — Loni Prinsloo and Samuel Stolton, (c) 2024 Bloomberg LP

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