Europeans Investigate Online Venture : Computers: EU fears U.S.-German service would be anti-competitive.

From Associated Press

The European Commission opened an inquiry Wednesday into whether an online service planned by America Online Inc., German media group Bertelsmann and Deutsche Telekom would be anti-competitive.

The commission, the executive body of the European Union, said in a statement that it is concerned about possible anti-competitive situations that could slow the development of other online services.

The three companies said in late November that they would form the alliance, dubbed AOL. German publishing company Axel Springer Verlag is also expected to take a share in the venture.

In particular, the commission wants to know under which conditions:

* Competing online services could gain access to publications controlled by the partners or buy advertising space to promote new services;

* Publications not belonging to the partners would be able to offer their online content;

* Other online services would be able to use the networks and services of Deutsche Telekom;

* Agreements with other online service companies might exist.

The commission said it is willing to clear the alliance if the partners respect competition rules.

The commission is also investigating Europe Online, a joint venture between Burda Verlag of Germany and several Luxembourg financial institutions.

In addition, it is monitoring Microsoft Network, the online service bundled with Microsoft Corp.'s new Windows 95 operating system, in cooperation with U.S. authorities.

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