Site   Web

March 6, 2013

EU Hits Microsoft With $731M Fine

Commission Punishes Software Giant for Failing to Provide Users With Browser Choice

Microsoft has been slapped with a whopping $731-million fine by the European Union for breaking its promise to provide users with a choice of Internet browsers.

“If companies agree to offer commitments which then become legally binding, they must do what they have committed to do or face the consequences,” EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia was quoted by Reuters during a news conference today (March 6).

“I hope this decision will make companies think twice before they even think of intentionally breaching their obligations or even of neglecting their duty to ensure strict compliance.”

Almunia said it may have been an error in judgment to let Microsoft monitor its own behavior rather than appointing an “external trustee” to make certain the firm observed the deal.

Microsoft BCS

Microsoft Browser Choice Software

“In 2009, we were even more naive than today,” he was quoted by Reuters.

The fine represents one percent of Microsoft’s 2012 fiscal-year revenues. The EU was lenient, however — it had the option of charging the company up to 10 percent of its global revenue.

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, saying the oversight was due to a technical error — one that was “quickly addressed.”

Microsoft has yet to say if it will challenge the ruling, but issued another statement today apologizing for the error.

“We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it,” the statement said.

“We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake — or anything similar — in the future.”