Government agents paid sudden visits to the Chinese offices of Microsoft Corp. on Monday apparently as part of an antitrust investigation, Reuters reported.
Personnel from the State Administration for Industry & Commerce, which is responsible for enforcing business laws, made the visits to the software giant’s offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, the wire agency said, citing local media reports that were confirmed by Microsoft.
The government agency declined to comment on the visits. A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company was “happy to answer the government’s questions”, but declined to give any further information.
A source close to the company said the visits were most likely the preliminary stage of an antitrust investigation, making Microsoft the latest US company to be targeted by Chinese regulators.
Qualcomm Inc., the world’s biggest cellphone chip maker, is facing penalties that may exceed US$1 billion in one such Chinese antitrust probe, following accusations of overcharging and abusing its market position, the report said.
Beijing’s increasing use of its six-year-old anti-monopoly law and price competition rules has riled US companies and strained US-China business relations.
The US Chamber of Commerce earlier this year urged Washington to get tough with Beijing on its use of anti-competition rules, noting that “concerns among US companies are intensifying”.
The latest move by Chinese authorities caps a rocky period for Microsoft in the country. Earlier this month, activists said Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service was being disrupted in China.
In May, central government offices were banned from installing Windows 8, Microsoft’s latest operating system, on new computers, the report said.
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