European Commission threatens Microsoft with massive fine over browser choice failure

24 Oct 2012

The European Commission has told Microsoft it faces a fine of up to 10pc of its total annual turnover over its failure to comply with a commitment to enable consumers to easily choose their preferred web browser. Microsoft has already paid more than €1.68bn in fines to the European Commission over the issue.

In a statement of objections, the commission said it took the view that Microsoft failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011.

The statement of objections is not the final outcome of the EU’s investigation into the matter.

Between February 2011 and July 2012, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen. Microsoft admitted the failure in July.

In December 2009, Microsoft 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. During the course of the decade-long dispute, the commission imposed fines totalling €1.68bn on Microsoft.

In a statement today, the commission reminded Microsoft that it made legally binding commitments to address competition concerns to the tying of its web browser Internet Explorer to its Windows operating system.

“Specifically, Microsoft committed to make available for five years (ie, until 2014) in the European Economic Area a ‘choice screen’ enabling users of Windows to choose in an informed and unbiased manner which web browser(s) they wanted to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft’s web browser. The choice screen was provided as of March 2010 to European Windows users who have Internet Explorer set as their default web browser,” the commission pointed out.

The European Commission will not make a decision until all parties have exercised their rights of defence.

However, it warned that if a company breached commitments made legally binding by way of an Article 9 decision, it may be fined up to 10pc of its total annual turnover.

EU Parliament image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years