The Europeans certainly take antitrust laws a good deal more seriously than the Americans. Oracle and Sun Microsystems are learning this the hard way, as Microsoft did before them.
Now, consider Thomson Reuters. Surely, the media and information giant has competitors, like the company named for the guy who just bought himself a third term as New York's mayor. Still, the European Commission has opened an investigation into potentially anticompetitive practices on the part of the company.
It seems that the EC doesn't much like that Thomson Reuters doesn't allow its proprietary Reuters Instrument Codes--which identify securities for banking and trading software--to be mapped to other companies' proprietary codes, which do the same thing. And, the EC says in a statement, "without the possibility of such mapping, customers may potentially be 'locked'-in to working with Thomson Reuters because replacing RICs by reconfiguring or by rewriting their software applications can be a long and costly procedure."
So it's not that Thomson keeps other data providers from doing the same thing it does. And it's not that Reuters wrote trading software in an evil bid to keep its customers "locked"-in. It's that banks and others wrote their software and built their systems around RICs, without allowing for the possibility that they might want to change their data provider some day.
Say what you will about antitrust laws, but if saving companies from their own stupidity and short-sightedness is the goal, the EC's competition czars have a hell of a lot more to do. And why didn't this come up last year, when Thomson bought Reuters?
EU Opens Thomson Reuters Probe [WSJ]
EU starts investigation into Reuters datafeed tool [Reuters]