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EU to Slap Charge on Microsoft for Breaching Browser Deal

By - Source: Reuters | B 54 comments

Microsoft may get slapped with a heft fine.

Microsoft's relationship with the European Union has been pretty rocky over the years and earlier this summer there were reports that the two are opening up old wounds. The European Union was said to have launched an investigation after receiving complaints that Microsoft was not offering the browser ballot screen it promised to ship with all versions of Windows. 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. Now, the EU is preparing to lay charges against Microsoft for its mistake.

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.

"Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the BCS (browser choice screen) software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7," Microsoft said in a statement. "While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologize for it."

However, despite Microsoft's best efforts to rectify the situation as soon as possible, Reuters cites EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia as saying the European Commission is preparing formal charges against the company following the summer investigation.

"The next step is to open a formal proceeding into the company's breach of an agreement. We are working on this," Almunia is quoted as saying. "It should not be a long investigation because the company itself explicitly recognized its breach of the agreement," he said.

Microsoft's offering of the browser choice screen is the result of an 2009 antitrust investigation conducted by the Euorpean Union. Europe felt that bundling Internet Explorer with Windows was anti-competitive, and argued that, because Windows is the most common operating system, it was unfair for Microsoft force all those users to use IE without first informing them of their options. Back in July, Microsoft estimated that around 90 percent of computers that should have received the BCS software received it as planned. As for the remaining 10 percent, the company said it began developing a fix one business day after the problem was discovered. The next day, July 3, 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 has offered to extend the period of time it's obligated to offer users this choice by more than a year.

If Microsoft is found guilty of breaching its agreement with the EU it could face fines amounting to as much as 10 percent of the company's revenues for the year. In Microsoft's case, that's well over $7 billion.

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  • 25 Hide
    ojas , September 28, 2012 4:39 PM
    this is lame. safari comes with ios and mac os x. no anti-trust for them?
  • 23 Hide
    bllue , September 28, 2012 4:30 PM
    And yet IE isn't even the most used browser on W7. Most people are using Firefox and Chrome so it's clear the users aren't being forced, in fact they're switching without the need of this said popup . Seems like EU is just going out of their way to screw MS
  • 16 Hide
    ohim , September 28, 2012 5:05 PM
    acyuta1. EU countries in a very bad shape financially, unemployment at 10%, finances shot.2. European Central Bank pledges to `do what it takes to save the Eurozone'.3. Money, money, money to pay the bills.4. Look outside as no one inside has any money and it is always better to let others' money clean up your mess.5. Voila, let us rob the Americans to pay for our misdeeds and profligacies.6. If we can't make it, then let's ruin others who can.I am not American white, but an Asian Indian (not a Red Indian).

    Apple is an American company also , has the same thing an OS that comes with a browser , yet EU doesn`t touch it! I`m european and i`m sick of this bullshit !
Other Comments
  • 23 Hide
    bllue , September 28, 2012 4:30 PM
    And yet IE isn't even the most used browser on W7. Most people are using Firefox and Chrome so it's clear the users aren't being forced, in fact they're switching without the need of this said popup . Seems like EU is just going out of their way to screw MS
  • 13 Hide
    mstngs351 , September 28, 2012 4:38 PM
    Sometimes regulations are just silly. I don't expect Ford to provide me with a tray of GPS devises to choose from but appreciate it when it's built into the vehicle. If I want a different GPS set up I get one. It's so easy that these rules are just plain stupid. "I'm sorry but you can't offer a complete system package even though anyone can add any program they like" Yeah, that's real anti competitive.
  • 25 Hide
    ojas , September 28, 2012 4:39 PM
    this is lame. safari comes with ios and mac os x. no anti-trust for them?
  • 11 Hide
    cutebeans , September 28, 2012 4:48 PM
    Apparently, this was more important than fixing their economy lol!
  • -7 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2012 4:48 PM
    mustangs: Ford didnt forceably create a monopoly on cars with a bunch of back-room deals either, now did they? Microsoft has gone out of their way to ensure that the AVERAGE CONSUMER never has a choice in what OS is on their PC, unless they're willing to pay 3x as much for an Apple product.

    Regulation is a good thing, if you don't like having a government setting a minimum standard for quality and ethics in business(especially from companies like MS with a long history of illegal and unethical behaviour), then I suggest you move to somewhere like Somalia. Then again, you may be a de-regulation Repub, who thinks that bringing back child-labour is somehow going to reduce the unemployment rate. No, you'll just be competing for the same number of jobs with cheap labour from your own kids, as well as China, India and Mexico.
  • 2 Hide
    Vorador2 , September 28, 2012 4:56 PM
    And yet, Microsoft is going to ban other browsers from Windows RT and risk another antitrust investigation. Sometimes i wonder if they learned something from their past actions.
  • 4 Hide
    acyuta , September 28, 2012 5:01 PM
    1. EU countries in a very bad shape financially, unemployment at 10%, finances shot.
    2. European Central Bank pledges to `do what it takes to save the Eurozone'.
    3. Money, money, money to pay the bills.
    4. Look outside as no one inside has any money and it is always better to let others' money clean up your mess.
    5. Voila, let us rob the Americans to pay for our misdeeds and profligacies.
    6. If we can't make it, then let's ruin others who can.

    I am not American white, but an Asian Indian (not a Red Indian).
  • 16 Hide
    ohim , September 28, 2012 5:05 PM
    acyuta1. EU countries in a very bad shape financially, unemployment at 10%, finances shot.2. European Central Bank pledges to `do what it takes to save the Eurozone'.3. Money, money, money to pay the bills.4. Look outside as no one inside has any money and it is always better to let others' money clean up your mess.5. Voila, let us rob the Americans to pay for our misdeeds and profligacies.6. If we can't make it, then let's ruin others who can.I am not American white, but an Asian Indian (not a Red Indian).

    Apple is an American company also , has the same thing an OS that comes with a browser , yet EU doesn`t touch it! I`m european and i`m sick of this bullshit !
  • 3 Hide
    internetlad , September 28, 2012 5:14 PM
    A "heft" fine you say?

    fantasti englis Jan.
  • 11 Hide
    Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer , September 28, 2012 5:18 PM
    The iPad's global tablet market share is something like 70%. Where's the browser ballet box on that?
  • 0 Hide
    a1b2c3 , September 28, 2012 5:27 PM
    internetladA "heft" fine you say?

    Yes, that's "heft" as in hef-T
  • -6 Hide
    wemakeourfuture , September 28, 2012 5:30 PM
    acyuta1. EU countries in a very bad shape financially, unemployment at 10%, finances shot.2. European Central Bank pledges to `do what it takes to save the Eurozone'.3. Money, money, money to pay the bills.4. Look outside as no one inside has any money and it is always better to let others' money clean up your mess.5. Voila, let us rob the Americans to pay for our misdeeds and profligacies.6. If we can't make it, then let's ruin others who can.I am not American white, but an Asian Indian (not a Red Indian).


    First of all the EU has been dealing with this issue with Microsoft before the recession and their fiscal woes. So everything you have said is NULL and VOID.
  • 2 Hide
    a1b2c3 , September 28, 2012 5:35 PM
    Ya'll don't worry none 'bout Microsoft. They'll be just fine and dandy.
    It's their customers (i.e. you an' me) that'll be pay'n an extra 10% on future versions of their software.
  • -3 Hide
    jhansonxi , September 28, 2012 5:43 PM
    mstngs351Sometimes regulations are just silly. I don't expect Ford to provide me with a tray of GPS devises to choose from but appreciate it when it's built into the vehicle.

    Ford doesn't control 90% of the automotive market.
  • -5 Hide
    wemakeourfuture , September 28, 2012 5:44 PM
    a1b2c3Ya'll don't worry none 'bout Microsoft. They'll be just fine and dandy.It's their customers (i.e. you an' me) that'll be pay'n an extra 10% on future versions of their software.


    So are you suggesting when a company violates laws and regulations of a nation/region that nothing should be done since the company may not absorb the cost and pass parts of it to consumers?

    If a company is illegally using child labour, they should not be fined since the price of the product 'may' be higher for consumers?

    So the bigger sin for you is the potential for higher price then the illegal and/or immoral act?
  • 9 Hide
    spartanmk2 , September 28, 2012 5:45 PM
    Wow.. is it really that hard to use IE as a means to download your prefer'd browser then never use it again?
  • -2 Hide
    jhansonxi , September 28, 2012 5:47 PM
    jhansonxiFord doesn't control 90% of the automotive market.

    Another way of looking at it - if AMD implodes, will your life be better with Intel controlling 99% of the desktop CPU market?

    PCs only became successful when Compaq and Phoenix clean-room cloned IBM's BIOS which allowed multiple PC manufacturers to compete aganst IBM. If that hadn't happened we would all be running overpriced PS/2 systems.
  • 6 Hide
    bllue , September 28, 2012 5:48 PM
    Old_Fogie_Late_BloomerThe iPad's global tablet market share is something like 70%. Where's the browser ballet box on that?

    You know we're in bad shape when the judicial systems of the world make their decisions on their own fanboyism. Because they own Apple products and love them they never do anything that'd 'hurt' Apple
  • 9 Hide
    cbfelterbush , September 28, 2012 5:49 PM
    The FACT of the matter is, despite their "reason" for perusing this action against Microsoft, the
    EU is simply fishing for money.

    Microsoft has the right to include IE with Windows, moreover IE Needs to be included with Windows.
    There needs to be a default browser included with an OS. Microsoft is doing nothing to inhibit ANYONE from installing ANY Browser they want. Every OS contains an included default Browser. However the EU thinks that only Microsoft should be required to take extra steps to increase the competitive nature of the market. I don't see iOS or OSX being targeted by the EU.

    Supporting an argument to the contrary under this basis, "Microsoft has gone out of their way to ensure that the AVERAGE CONSUMER never has a choice in what OS is on their PC," -it_pays2think

    Complete nonsense, since IE is not the most used browser on Windows this position falls flat. The AVERAGE CONSUMER by the law of averages IS changing their browser choice without issue.

    -CB
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