European Commission Fines Microsoft $731 Million For Browser Antitrust Violations

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The European Commission has fined Microsoft €561 million ($731 million) for failing to comply with its commitments to offer users a browser choice screen enabling them to easily choose their preferred web browser.

In 2009, the Commission had made these commitments legally binding on Microsoft until 2014 (see IP/09/1941). It has been observed that Microsoft failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 from May 2011 to July 2012. This means approximately 15 million users where not offered the browser choice screen during this period.

Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that time.

“We have apologized for it,” Microsoft said in a statement.

“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.”

Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said:

“In 2009, we closed our investigation about a suspected abuse of dominant position by Microsoft due to the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows by accepting commitments offered by the company. Legally binding commitments reached in antitrust decisions play a very important role in our enforcement policy because they allow for rapid solutions to competition problems. Of course, such decisions require strict compliance. A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly.”

This is the first time that the European Commission has had to fine a company for non-compliance with a commitments decision. In the calculation of the fine the Commission took into account the gravity and duration of the infringement, the need to ensure a deterrent effect of the fine and, as a mitigating circumstance, the fact that Microsoft has cooperated with the Commission and provided information which helped the Commission to investigate the matter efficiently.