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Brussels on Friday hit back at claims by Microsoft that its technical experts had been colluding with the software company’s rivals, as it condemned information provided by the company as “incomplete, inaccurate and unusable”.

The clear denial from the European Commission followed allegations by Microsoft that Professor Neil Barrett, the UK computer scientist who advises the Commission, was involved in inappropriate relations with competitors, believed to be IBM, Oracle, Novell and Sun Microsystems.

The Commission said Prof Barrett had met with Microsoft’s rivals to gather information on the company’s compliance with a landmark 2004 antitrust ruling. But it insisted there was nothing improper about such meetings, citing the terms establishing the position of monitoring trustee, which states that, as trustee, Prof Barrett “should play a proactive role” in monitoring compliance.

“Trustees do need to talk to third parties”, a Commission spokesman said, issuing a strong defence of Prof Barrett’s integrity. “Professor Barrett is a very well respected computer expert, whose name was suggested by Microsoft,” the commission said, adding that he was assisted by two advisers “of international repute”.

The defence came as Microsoft was formally told by Brussels that the technical documentation it handed over to the commission was still inadequate.

An analysis by Prof Barrett of the latest documents provided by Microsoft concluded that “nothing substantial” had been added, the software group was told in a letter from Commission officials.

Under the 2004 ruling, Microsoft is obliged to disclose information that would allow non-Microsoft work group servers to operate with Windows PCs.

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