European Commission Fines Microsoft 561 Million Euros
March 8th, 2013
On Wednesday this week, the European Commission imposed a new fine of 561 million euros on the U.S. software giant Microsoft, for breaching its commitment to include in its Windows operating system, an option screen that allows users to install alternative browsers other than their own, Internet Explorer. According to Brussels, a total of 15 million Microsoft customers were deprived of this browser choice in the version Windows 7 Service Pack 1, between May 2011 and July 2012. Microsoft has acknowledged the violation and attributed it to a technical error.
This is the fourth financial penalty imposed on Microsoft by Brussels since 2004. The total amount paid out in fines by the Redmond company now exceeds 2,200 million euros. It is the first time the European Commission have fined a company for breaking its commitments to correct an abuse of dominant position. Vice President of the Commission responsible for Economic Affairs, Joaquin Almunia, said that these commitments play “an important role” because they allow “quick solutions to problems of competition”. “A failure to comply is a very serious offense, that should be punished accordingly,” he added.
The options screen in Windows to allow users to choose a browser was one of the corrective measures imposed on Microsoft in 2009 as part of the framework of the disciplinary action opened by Brussels for an abuse of dominant position. Diario Sur reported that the aim was to prevent Microsoft imposing their own Explorer browser on users while excluding their market rivals, and the measure was to be in force until 2014. While it was applied, the browser choice screen “was a great success among its users,” said Brussels, with a total of 84 million browsers being downloaded through it up until November 2012.
When calculating the amount of the fine, the Commission took into account the gravity and duration of the infringement, the need to ensure the deterrent effect of the penalty and, as a mitigating factor, the fact that Microsoft cooperated with Brussels and provided information that helped the Commission to investigate the case effectively. The European Commission has imposed three other fines on Microsoft for abuse of dominant position since 2004, amounting in total to almost 1,700 million euros.
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