September 14, 2012 / 1:57 PM / 6 years ago

EU's Gazprom probe unlike Microsoft battle: Russian diplomat

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Russia does not expect gas export monopoly Gazprom’s (GAZP.MM) run-in with EU antitrust regulators to be a repeat of Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) decade-long battle in Europe that ended with sanctions, a senior Russian diplomat said on Friday.

Gazprom, under investigation by the European Commission for alleged abuse of its dominant position in central and eastern Europe, is confident of its case, said Vladimir Chizhov, the head of Russia’s EU representation in Brussels.

“I’m sure Gazprom will be more efficient than Microsoft in defending its interests and reaching a solution,” Chizhov told Reuters in an interview. “There is no analogy with Microsoft or Google (GOOG.O).”.

Microsoft fought with the Commission over allegations dating back to the mid 1990s that it had abused its dominant position to block competitors. It was eventually fined more than 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) for breaching EU rules.

An investigation into Internet search engine Google is ongoing.

Gazprom is under investigation for allegedly using its dominance to push up gas prices and block rivals.

Chizhov said he had met EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia on Thursday to discuss the case.

“Almunia acknowledged that my concerns are legitimate,” he said. But Almunia had refrained from providing a timeline for the case, Chizhov said.

Following previous EU investigations, Gazprom agreed to scrap a clause preventing Austrian energy group OMV (OMVV.VI) and Italy’s ENI (ENI.MI) from re-selling gas bought from Gazprom in other markets.

Gazprom’s battle with the EU has become increasingly political. Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger on Friday said Russia must abide by the European Union’s internal market rules and stop offering widely varying prices to its member states.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and David Holmes

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