Oracle In Hot Water Over Support Policies

SIA Accuse Oracle of Implementing Anticompetitive Policies

Jessica Thornsby

The SIA has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, over Oracle’s support policies.

The Service Industry Association (SIA) has appealed to the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that Oracle is implementing anticompetitive policies in regards to their hardware maintenance of former Sun Microsystems products. This comes after Oracle restricted access to its operating systems software updates, to users with current hardware maintenance contracts. Basically, if you require software support, you must first use Oracle’s hardware maintenance service. Furthermore, customers who return to Oracle support after trying out an Independent Service Organisation, must pay a ‘Return to Oracle’ service restoration fee. This fee is equal to 150% of the last-paid support fee, or 150% of the list technical support price for the system, proportional from the date technical support is being ordered back to the date support lapsed. Some claim this is a clear attempt to discourage customers from leaving Oracle support in the first place. Customers who do not have the hardware support package, also cannot open a time and materials service call with Oracle.

The SIA believe Oracle’s new hardware maintenance policies were created to monopolise the Sun hardware maintenance business. They claim the policies deliberately prevent Independent Service Organisations from servicing the hardware break-fix needs of Sun hardware users – it’s either Oracle for software and hardware support, or no Oracle support at all. Customers cannot mix-and-match with Oracle support, and support from an Independent Service Organisation of their choice.

The SIA originally raised this issue with Oracle in May, writing to them to express they were “gravely concerned” about Oracle’s ‘Oracle Hardware Systems Support Policies,’ released in March, 2010. In their letter to Oracle, they explained their interpretation of the document was “denying end-user access to firmware updates, time and material support, instituting onerous support reinstatement terms and fees and mandating that end users purchase support for their entire non-EOL Sun install base.” They called these changes a “deliberate, engineered and concerted effort by Oracle to stifle fair and equitable competition.” Oracle replied with a rejection of the allegations, claiming “we adopted these Polices in part to address our customers’ demand for better, simplified support and we believe these changes are necessary to meet the competition we face from other hardware solutions.” They strongly denied any wrongdoing on their part: “we therefore reject the implication in your letter that Oracle designed its Hardware and Systems Support Policies with the intent to monopolize support services or to reduce competition in any way……we do not accept the suggestion in your letter that the antitrust laws somehow prevent Oracle from modifying the terms of its support program as it responds to the broader competitive environment.”

According to Dennis Howlett, it looks like more bad press for Oracle’s support package is on the horizon, with the imminent publication of a Computer Economics survey of 109 Oracle customers, which found that 42% of these surveyed were dissatisfied with the quality of Oracle support, while 58% were dissatisfied with the cost of the support. “Many customers are frustrated with navigating Oracle’s support system and the length of time it takes for Oracle to respond to support issues, and dissatisfaction with the cost of that support is even more widespread,” said Frank Scavo, president of Computer Economics.

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