EU joins UK in scrutinising OpenAI’s relationship with Microsoft

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EU joins UK in scrutinising OpenAI’s relationship with Microsoft

Antitrust regulators in the EU have joined their British counterparts in scrutinising Microsoft’s alliance with OpenAI.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said on Tuesday that it’s “checking whether the partnership should be reviewed under the EU Merger Regulation.” If such a review is required, it could put the multibillion-dollar deal in danger.

The EU’s announcement comes just weeks after British regulators made a similar move.

In December, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) revealed that it was considering a probe of Microsoft’s $13bn (€11.9bn) investment into the ChatGPT maker. The watchdog cited concerns that the partnership could hurt UK competition.

Microsoft began backing OpenAI back in 2019. Since then, the Redmond company has exponentially increased its investment, integrated OpenAI’s tech into Office, Windows, and Bing, and supplied the startup with Azure Cloud tools.

Microsoft also became embroiled in the recent saga over the leadership of OpenAI. After CEO Sam Altman was controversially ousted in November, the Windows maker pushed for his reinstatement. Altman was rehired days later.

Despite the growing ties between the companies, Microsoft noted that it doesn’t own any equity stake in OpenAI.

“Since 2019, we’ve forged a partnership with OpenAI that has fostered more AI innovation and competition, while preserving independence for both companies,” a company spokesperson said.

“The only thing that has changed recently is that Microsoft will now have a non-voting observer on OpenAI’s Board.”

The EU will now scrutinise those arrangements. Any interested parties should submit their views on the deal by March 11.

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