Microsoft Teams is reportedly under investigation for its free NHS gift

Microsoft Teams
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Back in March 2020, just as the pandemic was starting to encroach upon our lives, the UK's National Health Service (NHS) was offered a free license to Microsoft Teams

The seemingly nice gesture, set to help beleaguered NHS staff more easily communicate and plan remotely via video conferencing, was at the time heralded as a kind act in a moment of intense crisis.  

Now, however, the picture is a little different. According to the Daily Mail, the UK government's Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is investigating claims that Microsoft used the free Teams license to gain an advantage on rivals - what one source described as "NHSwashing".

Out of the pan 

"Microsoft may have claimed to save the NHS millions of staff hours – but the price will be much higher later on down the line," the unnamed source continued.

"Their licence renewals will not only be incredibly expensive. but it will be too late to find a system that is cheaper and frankly better. This “NHSwashing” is a useful distraction, but the Microsoft anti-trust case is growing."

The probe could lead to Microsoft facing an anti-trust investigation, where it will come under scrutiny for possibly abusing its leading position - and also face questions on whether Teams itself is suitable and secure enough for use by such a highly-important institution.

Microsoft Teams is estimated to be used by millions of NHS staff, saving the organisation millions of pounds per year.

"The use of Microsoft Teams will ensure the hardworking doctors, nurses and support staff across all NHS organisations have the collaboration tools they need to carry out their vital work," Microsoft said at the time of its pledge.

"We are hugely appreciative of their ongoing efforts to tackle COVID-19 and will continue to provide support however best we can."

The UK probe comes on the heels of other difficulties for Microsoft, including an ongoing EU investigation spurred on by chat rival Slack.

Slack had accused Microsoft Teams of gaining an unfair advantage due to it being bundled to users as part of the wider Office software suite.

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.