The Swiss Competition Authority has just closed an investigation into an abuse of dominance investigation into Cisco. The investigation was prompted by a complaint by Internet network maintenance firm Multiven (Multiven also lodged complaints against Cisco in Germany and Belgium).
Multiven's complaint alleged that Cisco held a dominant position in the Internet network maintenance services market and was abusing it by bundling and tying software bug fixes, patches and updates for its operating system and application software to its maintenance services, i.e. Cisco was restricting access to its essential software updates only to customers that had purchased Cisco's SMARTnet maintenance service.
The remedies (according to Multiven) or clarifications (according to Cisco) that resulted in the investigation being closed are:
Cisco will make it clear to end users that they will have free access to licences for material bug fixes for free and regardless of whether the customer has a maintenance service agreement with Cisco. According to Cisco, this had always been its practice, but it would now be made clear by stating it specifically on Cisco's website.
Software licences can also now be assigned by customers if they have had the device on which the software is used for at least 12 months prior to the assignment. This too will be stated specifically on Cisco's website.
The Swiss Authority indicated that it thought that the remedies/clarifications would be effective, but that it would take some time to verify whether or not this was the case. The German and Belgian antitrust authorities decided not pursue Multiven's complaints. The complaints and the Swiss investigation reflect parties' increasing willingness to use competition law as a strategic commercial tool.
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