Microsoft’s License Policy Violates European Law

A British software license reseller is taking Microsoft to court. The company claims that Microsoft is violating European and British competition laws by making resale very difficult.


The case is brought by ValueLicensing and demands 270 million pounds from Microsoft. The case is likely to go to court in London next year.

In the court documents that The Register was able to view, ValueLicensing states, among other things, that the company regularly changes its license conditions and, above all, expands them, which limits the possibilities for resale.

For example, it says that Microsoft pays customers a discount on a SaaS subscription (such as Office 365) to hand in the old licenses when they switch to SaaS. That means it uses its dominant position to limit a competitor like ValueLicensing. At the same time, according to ValueLicensing, a software license is indeed protected against its seller once it has been placed on the market.

The case may seem technical but could have significant implications for business users of Microsoft software in the UK and the EU. Licenses that have been purchased may, in principle, be freely resold. Still, if judges decide that Microsoft’s dominant position prevents this from happening, the company risks fines or the obligation to relax its license terms.

That, in turn, gives extra breathing room to players who buy and/or resell such licenses, which can lead to better prices for specific software.

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