Slack has filed an antitrust claim against Microsoft over Teams

As videoconferencing tools gain prominence, key players are engaged in a fierce rivalry.
23 July 2020

Slack offers an enterprise-based communication platform. Source: Shutterstock

  • Slack has filed an antitrust complaint against tech giant Microsoft claiming unfair advantage
  • Videoconferencing tools are increasingly sought-after amid the pandemic, with Slack and Microsoft spiking in usage
  • The EU has been conducting investigations into the dominance of certain tech companies in markets

Business messaging platform Slack has filed an antitrust claim against Microsoft, claiming that the tech giant has an unfair advantage in embedding its workplace chat and video app Teams within its cloud-based productivity suite, Office.  

The complaint filed Wednesday to the European Commission is one of the latest complaints accusing large tech companies of abusing their alleged dominance and trying to snuff out competition through “illegal and anti-competitive practice.”

“Microsoft has 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,” Slack said in an emailed statement.

The work messaging platform is asking the EU to ensure Microsoft sells Teams as a stand-alone product, instead of embedding it within the Office suite, making it harder for Slack to sell its own product in what they say is an uneven playing field. 

Tech giant Microsoft said that it looks forward to “providing additional information to the European Commission and answering any questions they may have,” according to Reuters

The Microsoft’s spokesperson continued: “We created Teams to combine the ability to collaborate with the ability to connect via video, because that’s what people want.

“With COVID-19, the market has embraced Teams in record numbers while Slack suffered from its absence of videoconferencing. We’re committed to offering customers not only the best of new innovation, but a wide variety of choice in how they purchase and use the product.”

The European Commission has confirmed receipt of the complaint and would proceed with the standard procedures. 

Videoconferencing has experienced an unparalleled surge, as millions of employees transitioned to remote working due to pandemic-induced lockdowns. A direct consequence of the mass transition saw rivalry over key players such as Zoom, Google, Microsoft, Slack, and Cisco deepen.

In the thick of the pandemic, Microsoft Teams saw a spike in users from 44 million in March to 74 million in April while Slack has experienced similar growth, reaching 12.5 million by late March. 

Besides that, Wednesday’s complaint is also part of another bigger narrative, as the EU goes on an antitrust probe spree aiming to investigate whether large tech companies including Apple, Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, and the likes have capitalized their dominance in tech to give preference for their own products and services. 

Last month, the European Commission opened formal probes to “assess whether Apple’s conduct in connection with Apple Pay violates EU competition rules,” as stated in an official statement

More recently, the European Commission has initiated an investigation to seek whether large tech companies could misuse the data collected through the Internet of Things (IoT), citing concerns for tech giants “to cement their position in the market against the challenges of competition.”