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EU Fines Microsoft for Failing to Comply with Browser Ballot

By - Source: European Union | B 35 comments

Microsoft has been fined for failing to offer all Windows users a browser ballot.

The European Union has imposed a €561 million fine on Microsoft for failing to offer the browser ballot screen it promised to ship with all versions of Windows. The European Union was said to have launched an investigation last summer after receiving complaints that Microsoft was not offering the browser ballot to all users. The ballot screen is a pop-up designed to give customers the ability to choose which browser they want to use to surf the web. In September, word got out that the EU was preparing to lay charges against Microsoft for its mistake.

Today, the European Commission announced that it fined Microsoft for failing to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 from May 2011 until July 2012. According to the European Commission, 15 million Windows users in the EU did not see the choice screen during this period and Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that time. 

Indeed, Microsoft has admitted that the browser ballot pop-up was missing from some versions of Windows. In a statement released back in July, Redmond said that this was due to a software glitch that it worked quickly to fix. Microsoft estimated that around 90 percent of computers received the BCS software as planned. As for the remaining 10 percent, the company said it began developing a fix one business day after the problem was discovered. A day after that, the company began distributing the BCS software to Windows 7 SP1 PCs that missed out on the software the first time around. What's more, Redmond offered to extend the period of time it's obligated to offer users this choice by more than a year. However, it seems the EU wasn't satisfied with Microsoft's efforts to rectify the mistake.

"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," said Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia. "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."

According to the European Commission, the fine was calculated with the consideration of the gravity and duration of the infringement as well as Microsoft's cooperation on the matter.

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  • 24 Hide
    wannabepro , March 6, 2013 7:04 PM
    I'm not a big fan of IE. But it seems to me that EU just wants a bit of spending money...

    If someone can't go online to download another browser, they don't deserve to own a computer.
  • 23 Hide
    NightLight , March 6, 2013 7:05 PM
    living in europe, i just don't get this, there was clearly an annoying browser choice...

    i think ms just got ripped by the eu, like all citizens in the eu.
  • 20 Hide
    gamergeek , March 6, 2013 7:14 PM
    I really dont get this. I have been growing more and more displeased with MS, but this is BS. You can just download any browser you want of the internet, whats the big deal?
Other Comments
  • 24 Hide
    wannabepro , March 6, 2013 7:04 PM
    I'm not a big fan of IE. But it seems to me that EU just wants a bit of spending money...

    If someone can't go online to download another browser, they don't deserve to own a computer.
  • 23 Hide
    NightLight , March 6, 2013 7:05 PM
    living in europe, i just don't get this, there was clearly an annoying browser choice...

    i think ms just got ripped by the eu, like all citizens in the eu.
  • 1 Hide
    shafe88 , March 6, 2013 7:05 PM
    Now if someone could only fine Microsoft for putting that god ugly Modern(Metro) UI on desktops.
  • 20 Hide
    gamergeek , March 6, 2013 7:14 PM
    I really dont get this. I have been growing more and more displeased with MS, but this is BS. You can just download any browser you want of the internet, whats the big deal?
  • 18 Hide
    edogawa , March 6, 2013 7:15 PM
    This is dumb on so many levels, they shouldn't force Microsoft to put a competitors product on their product.

    If you want another browser they can just go online and get any of them, and if you can't figure that out you shouldn't be on a computer.
  • 15 Hide
    Fokissed , March 6, 2013 7:15 PM
    I liked the idea of Windows shipping with no browser at all. It doesn't seem like Microsoft's responsibility to include competitor's browsers.
  • 15 Hide
    Fulgurant , March 6, 2013 7:16 PM
    NightLightliving in europe, i just don't get this, there was clearly an annoying browser choice...i think ms just got ripped by the eu, like all citizens in the eu.

    The numbers for fines like this one are pretty crazy, aren't they?

    It'd be one thing if the EU had assessed the damage Microsoft's omission inflicted upon its competitors, and if the EU had plans to distribute the amount to Mozilla, Google, et al -- but that's not the deal here. About the best thing you can say is that the EU's fine adds a little extra legitimacy to a future lawsuit on behalf of Microsoft's competitors.

    In the meanwhile, the EU pockets a crapton of cash. They must've been happy when Microsoft failed to comply with the regulation. Free money.
  • 1 Hide
    Fokissed , March 6, 2013 7:23 PM
    DiddyMaoOutOfHereM$You can subject me to the most severe ridicule and hate , but don't Gift me windows 8, you can take a plasma torch to my family jewls, but don't gift me windows 8! I will not take the METRO free or for large sums of money , I'd rather have death buy one thousand cuts, or the VD from one Billion Sluts, but don't gift me windows 8!

    wat.
  • 16 Hide
    tridon , March 6, 2013 7:23 PM
    edogawaThis is dumb on so many levels, they shouldn't force Microsoft to put a competitors product on their product.If you want another browser they can just go online and get any of them, and if you can't figure that out you shouldn't be on a computer.


    And from the other angle, I have never seen a single Browser Ballot Screen when installing Ubuntu, or when I got the Samsung Galaxy Tab or the Iphone. Everyone is allowed to use their own software except MS? Heck, iOS even blocks the possibility for browsers to use the same tools as Safari, and thus other browsers perform poorer. This whole thing is extremely arbitrary. The word "corruption" springs to mind :\
  • 5 Hide
    Pinhedd , March 6, 2013 7:29 PM
    NightLightliving in europe, i just don't get this, there was clearly an annoying browser choice...i think ms just got ripped by the eu, like all citizens in the eu.


    It was missing in the EU distributions of Windows 7 with SP1.

    With that said, it's just a cash grab by the EU
  • 5 Hide
    Onus , March 6, 2013 7:47 PM
    You mean Europeans can sue Ford for not selling cars with Renault radios as options?
  • 14 Hide
    Marco925 , March 6, 2013 7:56 PM
    Why can't Apple be fined for not letting alternative stuff on their phones and ipads? What gives?

  • 0 Hide
    getochkn , March 6, 2013 8:16 PM
    Amazing that Apple can include Safari, ChromeOS comes with Google Chrome, Ubuntu and comes with Friefox, yet MS can't include IE?
  • -3 Hide
    blubbey , March 6, 2013 8:40 PM
    tridonAnd from the other angle, I have never seen a single Browser Ballot Screen when installing Ubuntu, or when I got the Samsung Galaxy Tab or the Iphone. Everyone is allowed to use their own software except MS? Heck, iOS even blocks the possibility for browsers to use the same tools as Safari, and thus other browsers perform poorer. This whole thing is extremely arbitrary. The word "corruption" springs to mind :\


    To be fair, if I understand the article correctly (Today, the European Commission announced that it fined Microsoft for failing to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 from May 2011) I don't think iOS or Ubuntu had 90%+ market share (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems). From what I can tell it's trying to stop a monopoly. Even though this is suspect, a monopoly is never a good thing for consumers.
  • -2 Hide
    neblogai , March 6, 2013 8:45 PM
    Nobody seems to remember, that Microsoft used it's market share in desktop OS market to kill competition in browser market. Soon consumers were left with IE4, IE5, IE6, which did not conform to standards. As IE had market share of 90+ %, web designers were building websites to work with just IE, while competitors could not compete- websites built for Microsoft's code were not working properly on standard-conforming browsers. Happy times with IE.
    I am happy to see this monopoly broken, and do not wish to see it again. And happy for being a citizen of EU- whose commissioners understand the issue and are dealing with it.
  • 8 Hide
    beayn , March 6, 2013 9:11 PM
    neblogaiNobody seems to remember, that Microsoft used it's market share in desktop OS market to kill competition in browser market. Soon consumers were left with IE4, IE5, IE6, which did not conform to standards. As IE had market share of 90+ %, web designers were building websites to work with just IE, while competitors could not compete- websites built for Microsoft's code were not working properly on standard-conforming browsers. Happy times with IE.I am happy to see this monopoly broken, and do not wish to see it again. And happy for being a citizen of EU- whose commissioners understand the issue and are dealing with it.
    I agree that MS's actions back then were definitely in the wrong, however the monopoly wasn't broken by the EU, the Browser ballot screen, nor any fines. It was broken by other competitors making better browsers and people switching to them.

    At this point, MS is catching up, making browsers that conform to standards and without the massive market share that they can use to impose their own standards. There is no need to demand that MS include this ballot screen, especially when other companies aren't required to do so. These sorts of orders should be universal. iPhones and Android phones have a massive market share in the mobile market, but they are still not forced to have a browser choice screen and they really should be. Otherwise, MS should NOT have to include other browsers.

    That said, Windows 8 is a good example. IE10 has the touch based skin. These other browsers do not as far as I know. If someone buys a touchscreen computer, doesn't know about the touch skin that makes it easy to use, and chooses say Firefox, they're left with a browser that's not designed for touch.


  • 1 Hide
    sykozis , March 6, 2013 9:32 PM
    neblogaiNobody seems to remember, that Microsoft used it's market share in desktop OS market to kill competition in browser market. Soon consumers were left with IE4, IE5, IE6, which did not conform to standards. As IE had market share of 90+ %, web designers were building websites to work with just IE, while competitors could not compete- websites built for Microsoft's code were not working properly on standard-conforming browsers. Happy times with IE.I am happy to see this monopoly broken, and do not wish to see it again. And happy for being a citizen of EU- whose commissioners understand the issue and are dealing with it.

    Microsoft released IE during a time when you had to pay for the Netscape browser. It made sense for people to choose IE over Netscape due to the $20USD price tag attached to the Netscape browser. AOL, like most ISPs/ICPs at the time, also integrated IE into their software because it was cheaper than developing and maintaining their own browser.... That is what really drove IE to dominance....not simply integrated IE into Windows. MS controlled the browser "market" prior to IE being integrated into Windows.
  • 1 Hide
    jkflipflop98 , March 6, 2013 10:05 PM
    If I were Ballmer, I'd tell them to suck it and not give them a single shilling. Then I'd activate the hidden Gates Order 66 backdoor and brick every Windows install in the EU.
  • 0 Hide
    old_newbie , March 6, 2013 10:12 PM
    neblogaiNobody seems to remember, that Microsoft used it's market share in desktop OS market to kill competition in browser market. Soon consumers were left with IE4, IE5, IE6, which did not conform to standards. As IE had market share of 90+ %, web designers were building websites to work with just IE, while competitors could not compete- websites built for Microsoft's code were not working properly on standard-conforming browsers. Happy times with IE.I am happy to see this monopoly broken, and do not wish to see it again. And happy for being a citizen of EU- whose commissioners understand the issue and are dealing with it.


    +1. (because i choose not to vote someone into negative infinity because they disagree with popular opinion --and can articulate a good argument). That said, however, I do disagree. I wouldn't classify browser dominance as a monopoly. First, browsers do not generate revenue. Search engines do. Now if M$ was forcing Bing, I would say that is a different story. Also, browsers simply read code. That code is a type of standard language. There isn't one web developer out there that would write code to only be read by one browser (not if they wanted to keep their job). This is not like, say, DirectX. One last thing to consider. What if M$ decided to not include a browser with your new computer loaded with Windows? How would you get to the internet?
  • 1 Hide
    Sakkura , March 6, 2013 11:10 PM
    FulgurantIn the meanwhile, the EU pockets a crapton of cash. They must've been happy when Microsoft failed to comply with the regulation. Free money.

    Especially at the moment, with the EU budget shrinking compared to the previous year for the first time ever.

    Personally, I think this is the right action at the wrong time. Microsoft should have been punished for what they did earlier in the browser wars rather than what they're doing today. Though it is a bit of a dick move to promise to put a browser ballot into the OS and then just "accidentally" omit it in a particular version. Even if it doesn't really matter much in practice - I have the affected version of Windows, and I only used IE to download Firefox.

    I do hope the EU sues Apple for their business practices at some point though.
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