Microsoft fined millions by European Commission

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European Commission punishes Microsoft

Software giant Microsoft has been fined 561m Euros (£484m) by the European Commission due to the Internet Explorer browser breaking competition regulations.

Microsoft has received this punishment due to failing to display alternative browser options such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. The company had previously included the Browser Choice Screen pop-up, as part of a settlement related to an earlier investigation from the European Commission in 2010.

However, Microsoft dropped the feature in February 2011, following a Windows 7 update, which the company insisted was due to a "technical error." Competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia disputed this explanation, calling the removal of this feature "unprecedented." He went on to say that he hoped the heavy fine would prevent any other companies having the "temptation" of breaking similar promises.

Mr Almunia said Microsoft's lack of compliance was the first time a firm had failed to meet such a commitment, commenting that their actions represented a "serious breach".

Conclusion of long running case

The origin of this case was in 2007 when the Norwegian web browser Opera complained Microsoft was treating competition unfairly by its bundling of the Internet Explorer browser with their operating systems. The European Commission issued an initial report which suggested the firm was abusing its position, with Microsoft agreeing to offer a choice of browser until at least 2014 to avoid punishment.

Despite initially complying, the browser choice was later dropped, with Microsoft continuing to report that they were complying with the regulations. Despite the size of the £484m fine, the punishment for Microsoft could have been significantly worse, with the total potential penalty for their actions having totalled £4.9bn.

Adrian Mursec, senior developer at theEword commented: "This move shows that the European Commission is prepared to take the required action against companies breaking its guidelines on compatition, and could lead to an increasingly open and fair market as other companies look to avoid a similar punishment."