EU fines Microsoft with €561 million for browser antitrust issue

European Commission FlagsAfter breaking the browser antitrust commitment made in 2009, Microsoft was fined today by the European commission with €561 million. Microsoft was found guilty for not giving their users the chance to choose their desired Internet Browser.

It appears that between May 2011 and July 2012 at least 15 million users didn’t have the chance to legally chose other browsers, because Microsoft programmers accidentally missed to add the line of code that would trigger the “browser choice” action. I don’t understand why a company like Microsoft would accidentally missed this, but I’m sure now it’s already too late for excuses.

When Windows 7 SP 1 was released(in 2011) there were 4 years since Opera complained that Microsoft was killing competition by integrating their Internet Explorer browser in their own OS and not giving users a browser choice. But in 2009 Microsoft agreed to offer their users browser choice until at least 2014, otherwise they risked a fine.

Between May 2011 and July 2012 there are 14 months, and, during that time Microsoft claimed they were still compiling the 2009 agreement. And surprisingly Microsoft is the first company fined for failing to meet their obligations by the EU anti-trust commission.

Joaquin Almunia, EU’s competition commissioner, said:

If companies agree to offer commitments which then become legally binding, they must do what they have committed to do or face the consequences.

I hope this decision will make companies think twice before they even think of intentionally breaching their obligations or even of neglecting their duty to ensure strict compliance.

On the other side Microsoft took full responsibility for this issue and released the following statement:

We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it. 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.

Although this fine represents 1 percent of Microsoft’s annual global revenue, the European commission could have fined them up to 10 percent. This fine is also a warning given for other companies that fail to obey EU regulations. Google, Samsung and Apple might also risk sanctions for disrespecting EU rules, even accidentally.

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