Oracle has been hit with a $10,000 fine for misleading potential users about the performance of its software running on Sun Microsystems server hardware. The company had run ads claiming that Oracle running on Sun hit certain benchmarks - although the benchmarking organisation had no record of such tests.

Now, the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC), of which Oracle is a member, has asked Oracle to pay a US$10,000 fine for the violation. The non-profit group defines transaction processing and database benchmarks, which are used as a source of information about product performance. Member companies agree to follow rules about how they can use TPC data in publicity.

The TPC cited an advertisement that Oracle ran in the Wall Street Journal and the Economist claiming that a combined system from Oracle and Sun will be faster than a system from IBM, based on TPC benchmark figures. Oracle said the benchmark results would be made available on 14 October.

But the TPC said it was not aware of any such results. "Oracle has not submitted any current evidence to the TPC to sustain this claimed result," it said.

IBM filed a complaint about the ad to the TPC, the group said.

Oracle has been asked not to run the ad again and to remove a website that the ad pointed to. That site, at www.oracle.com/sunoraclefaster, is no longer accessible.

TPC members, including Oracle, Microsoft, Intel, HP, AMD and others pay $15,000 a year to be part of the group.

Oracle did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The fine is trivial for a company of Oracle's size, but the aggressive advertising tactics may highlight the challenges Oracle is facing as it tries to move forward with the Sun acquisition. With Sun customers facing uncertainty about the future of their platforms, Hewlett-Packard and IBM have been aggressively courting Sun customers with migration programs.

Seeking to mitigate those customer fears, Oracle has also run ads saying it will invest more in Sun's Sparc processor than Sun does now.

US regulators have approved the Sun acquisition but the European Commission is investigating the deal because of concerns about how the combination might harm competition in the open-source software market,  Sun owns the open-source MySQL database.

In the meantime, some Sun executives have been leaving the company amid the uncertainty. On Wednesday, HP said it had hired Randy Seidl, formerly the vice president of Sun's North America sales and services group.