Microsoft ends 10-year anti-competitive dispute with EU

16 Dec 2009

Microsoft has ended a 10-year dispute with the European Commission over anti-competitive charges by agreeing to offer all Microsoft Windows users in Europe a choice of internet browsers via a pop-up window.

From March of next year, all users of Microsoft’s popular Windows operating system will be given a choice to replace Internet Explorer with a different internet browser, such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.

The Commission had been concerned that Microsoft’s tying of its internet browser, Internet Explorer, with its Windows operating system may have constituted an abuse of a dominant market position.

“Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use. Such choice will not only serve to improve people’s experience of the internet now but also act as an incentive for web browser companies to innovate and offer people better browsers in the future,” said EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Under the terms of the deal, Microsoft will make a pop-up window or ‘Choice Screen’ available to Windows users in the European Economic Area for five years. This will allow users of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 to choose which web browser(s) they want to install in addition to, or instead of, Internet Explorer.

During the course of the decade-long dispute, the Commission imposed fines totalling €1.68bn on Microsoft.

Despite striking a deal with the EU, Microsoft is not totally out of the woods yet as regards fines. If it breaks its commitments under this latest deal, the Commission has the authority to impose a fine of up to 10pc of Microsoft’s total annual turnover, without ever having to prove the company is in violation of any EU anti-trust rules.

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