Slack announced Wednesday that it has filed a competition complaint against Microsoft in the European Union alleging illegal and anti-competitive practices and stomping out competition in breach of European Union law.
Specifically, Slack’s complaint alleges that Microsoft has illegally tied Teams – its flagship unified communications and collaboration app and a direct competitor to Slack’s platform – to the Office365 suite of productivity and work tools.
That has resulted in Teams being installed on millions of devices without allowing for its removal or disclosing the true cost to enterprise customers, according to Slack’s complaint.
In a statement, Jonathan Prince, vice president of communications and policy at Slack, said the company is confident it will win on the merits of the product, but the company was compelled to call out what it views as illegal behavior. Slack essentially threatens Microsoft’s lock on enterprise software, he said.
“But this is much bigger than Slack versus Microsoft – this is a proxy for two very different philosophies for the future of digital ecosystems, gateways versus gatekeepers,” Prince said. “Slack offers an open, flexible approach that compounds the threat to Microsoft because it is a gateway to innovative, best-in-class technology that competes with the rest of Microsoft’s stack and gives customers the freedom to build solutions that meet their needs. We want to be the 2% of your software budget that makes the other 98% more valuable; they want 100% of your budget every time.”
In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft said it created Teams to combine the ability to collaborate with videoconferencing.
“With COVID-19, the market has embraced Teams in record numbers while Slack suffered from its absence of video-conferencing. 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. We look forward to providing additional information to the European Commission and answering any questions they may have.”
The Verge also highlighted the long-running competition between the two companies, which the website said began about four years ago and has picked up since Microsoft Teams began outpacing Slack during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The companies have long been competing for users and headlines, as Microsoft highlights Team’s use compared to Slack, and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has previously told The Verge that Microsoft is “unhealthily preoccupied with killing” his company.
In another statement included in Slack’s announcement, David Schellhase, Slack’s general counsel, said Microsoft created a “weak, copycat product” and tied it to the dominant Office product, which he called similar to Microsoft’s previous behavior during the “browser wars.”
“Slack is asking the European Commission to take swift action to ensure Microsoft cannot continue to illegally leverage its power from one market to another by bundling or tying products,” he said.