Microsoft to be Hit With Another Vast Fine Over Browser Choice ‘Glitch’?

Microsoft can’t seem to stay on the right side of the EU regulators when it comes to its long-running browser anti-competition case and now looks likely to be hit with another vast fine.

Since a European Commission ruling in December 2009 that Microsoft used its market dominance with Windows to unfairly promote its Internet Explorer web browser and fined around $1.28B in total for it, Microsoft has had to provide a browser choice screen in its operating systems marketed in the EU.

However, since service pack 1 for Windows 7, this browser choice screen has mysteriously disappeared. The European Commission noticed and asked Microsoft nicely about why it was no longer complying. Microsoft then claimed that it was a “technical glitch”. However, SP1 was released back in July 2011 and Microsoft never “noticed” this rather important omission until the EC pointed it out to them. Oops… Unsurprisingly, the EC haven’t really bought Microsoft’s line that it’s just a glitch and think that they are telling porkies instead.

The EC opened an investigation in July into this and looks set to make a ruling soon. It looks like they have had enough of Microsoft’s anticompetitive antics and want to make an example of Microsoft, to discourage other companies from breaching future rulings, which could mean a fine of up to an eye watering $7.4B or 10% of its revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. The case has been running for over a decade now.

Antitrust experts said regulators may use the case to deter other companies which do not follow through on their commitments.

“They (regulators) would be looking to make an example, given the size or the company and the long-running saga. The size of the fine could be fairly significant,” said antitrust lawyer Rachel Bickler at Brussels-based Nabarro.


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