Site   Web

March 1, 2013

EU Expected to Lay Hefty Fine on Microsoft

Over Omission of Browser Choice Screen Software

Microsoft is facing billions of dollars in fines as the European Union (EU) cracks down on the software giant for its failure to provide users with a choice of Internet browsers.

Sources told Reuters Microsoft would be slapped with the fine before the end of March.

“The Commission is planning to fine Microsoft before the Easter break,” a source told Reuters, adding “procedural issues” could delay a decision.

According to Reuters, it is thought the fine could be a hefty one because this is the second time Microsoft has not obeyed an EU order.

The issue dates back more than 10 years when an anti-trust investigation was launched against the firm.

In 2009, Microsoft, to avoid monetary penalties, promised to offer its European customers a choice of browsers in Windows 7.

The EU, however, accused Microsoft last October of failing to honor its vow by not including a “browser choice” screen.

The EU said Microsoft began violating the agreement beginning in February of 2011.

“From February 2011 until July 2012, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen,” a press release reads. “Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period.”

Microsoft apologized in a statement Oct. 24.

“We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it,” the statement reads. “Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we have taken steps to strengthen our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again. We sincerely apologize for this mistake and will continue to co-operate fully with the Commission.”

Microsoft, in a July 2012 statement, said a technical error caused the OS update in February 2011 to land on store shelves without the Browser Choice Screen (BCS) software. It is thought approximately 28 million European users may have been impacted.

Microsoft BCS

Microsoft BCS

“While we believed when we filed our most recent compliance report in December 2011 that we were distributing the BCS software to all relevant PCs as required, we learned recently that we’ve missed serving the BCS software to the roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1,” the statement reads.

“While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologize for it.”

After an internal investigation revealed the error, Microsoft said it took the following steps:

Within one business day of discovering the error, a software fix was developed and testing began. The next day Microsoft began distributing the BCS software to the PCs running Windows 7 SP1 which it had missed, and ensured it was available for all new PCs with Windows 7 SP1.

Microsoft retained “experienced outside counsel to conduct a formal investigation of precisely how the technical error occurred and to make suggestions to avoid any such compliance problems in the future.” A full report was to be provided to Microsoft and the European Commission.

• Microsoft also offered to extend its compliance period by an additional 15 months.

This is not the software giant’s first run-in with the EU. Microsoft was fined $1.3 billion in 2008 for charging “unreasonable prices” to software developers who wanted to make products compatible with its then-Windows desktop operating system.