Analysis of Proposed Consent Order To Aid Public Comment
The Federal Trade Commission has accepted, subject to final approval, an agreement containing a consent order from Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft").
The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for receipt of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received, and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make final the agreement's proposed order.
This matter involves alleged misleading representations about Pocket PC handheld computers ("Pocket PCs") -- personal digital assistants ("PDAs") which feature Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, including Hewlett-Packard Company's Jornada Pocket PC and Compaq Computer Corp.'s iPaq Pocket PC. This matter concerns allegedly false and deceptive advertising claims made in advertisements regarding the ability of Pocket PCs to access the Internet and email accounts.
According to the FTC complaint, Microsoft falsely claimed that Pocket PCs contain everything that consumers need to access the Internet and their email accounts, at anytime and from anywhere. In fact, in order to access the Internet and their email accounts using Pocket PCs, when away from their computers ("remotely"), consumers must purchase and carry a separate modem or similar device that in most cases must be connected to a land telephone line or a mobile telephone; and moreover, many mobile telephones currently in use in the United States are not compatible with Pocket PCs. The complaint also alleges that in representing that consumers can use Pocket PCs to access the Internet and their email accounts, at anytime and from anywhere, Microsoft failed to disclose or failed to disclose adequately that in order to access remotely the Internet and their email accounts, consumers must purchase and carry a separate modem or similar device. The complaint alleges that the failure to disclose this material fact is a deceptive practice.
The proposed consent order contains provisions designed to prevent Microsoft from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future. Specifically, Parts I and II address representations regarding any PDA or handheld Internet or email access device that requires the use of an additional device or connection to a telephone land line in order to access the Internet or email accounts remotely ("covered devices").
Part I of the proposed order prohibits Microsoft from making any misrepresentations about the ability of any covered device to access the Internet or email accounts, or about any performance characteristic of any covered device affecting access to the Internet or email accounts.
Part II of the proposed order prohibits Microsoft from making any representation about the ability of any covered device to access the Internet or email accounts unless Microsoft discloses, clearly and conspicuously, any other products (such as a modem, mobile telephone, or adapter) or Internet or email access services (other than general-purpose ISP service, as defined in the order) that consumers must purchase in order to access the Internet or email accounts.
Parts III through VI of the order require Microsoft to keep copies of relevant advertisements and materials substantiating claims made in the advertisements, to provide copies of the order to certain of its personnel, to notify the Commission of changes in corporate structure, and to file compliance reports with the Commission. Part VII provides that the order will terminate after twenty (20) years under certain circumstances.
The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order, and it is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify in any way their terms.