Microsoft has been fined €561m by the European Commission for failing to promote a range of web browsers, rather than just Internet Explorer, to users in the European Union (EU).
The US group introduced a browser choice screen pop-up in March 2010 as part of a settlement following an earlier EU competition investigation, but subsequently omitted the feature in a Windows 7 update the following February 2011.
The EC’s competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia, rejecting Microsoft’s claim that the omission resulted from a technical error, said the action was unprecedented. “I hope this will make companies think twice before they ever thinking of breaching their international obligations,” he commented.
Almunia added that he preferred negotiated settlements to extended legal battles when addressing antitrust complaints in the IT sector. Microsoft's willingness to co-operate with the EU’s subsequent investigation had acted as a mitigating factor when determining the level of the fine. Theoretically the watchdog could have fined Microsoft 10% of its global annual revenue, which would have totalled US$7.4bn 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 spokesman said in response to the fine.
“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.”