Microsoft fined over web browser again by European Commission

By Dyenamic Solitions - Last updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Microsoft has been fined £484 million (561m euros) for failing to promote a range of web browsers, rather than just Internet Explorer, to users in the European Union (EU).Microsoft fined over web browser againThis is one the daftest and most avoidable self inflicted fines ever levied against a company.

This case dates back to 2007 when Opera – a Norwegian web-browser maker – complained that Microsoft was stifling competition on PCs by bundling Internet Explorer with its operating system.

Microsoft initially argued that the move benefited users, but after the European Commission issued a preliminary report suggesting the firm had abused its position, the company agreed to offer a choice of browser until at least 2014 to avoid risking a fine.

However, this option was missing from its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 released in 2011 and it continued to be absent for 14 months.

Micorsoft introduced a Browser Choice Screen pop-up in March 2010 as part of a settlement following an earlier EU competition investigation.

Microsoft has since claimed that the omission had been the result of a “technical error”.

But competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the action was unprecedented, adding he wanted to deter any company from the “temptation” of reneging on such a promise.

In theory the watchdog could have fined the firm 10% of its global annual revenue, which would have totalled approx £4.5 billion based on its 2012 report.

“We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologised for it,” a spokesman for Microsoft said following the announcement.

“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.”

Joaquin Almunia, vice-president of the European Commission, announced the fine

“These ‘commitments decisions’ are currently the European Commission’s favoured mechanism to close abuse of dominance proceedings, saving enforcement resource and allowing for a speedy resolution.

After the EU was alerted to the problem, it contacted Microsoft, which subsequently issued an apology suggesting its engineers had accidentally missed the issue.

It also acted to restore the facility. But the move was not enough to prevent an eight-month follow-up investigation by the commission into what punishment was needed.

At a press conference in Brussels, Mr Almunia said Microsoft’s lack of compliance represented a “serious breach” and was the first time a firm had failed to meet such a commitment.

He explained that he preferred negotiated settlements, rather than extended legal battles, when tackling competition complaints in the fast moving IT sector.

Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer and the former head of its Windows division Steven Sinofsky have already had their most recent bonuses docked, in part because of the browser affair.

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