Microsoft's relationship with the European Union has been pretty rocky over the years. Now it seems the two are opening up old wounds. Apparently, the European Union has 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.
Microsoft has since admitted that the browser ballot pop-up was missing from some versions of Windows. In a statement, 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 apologise for it."
Microsoft estimates 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.
"Since we have fallen short in our responsibility to display the BCS, we have offered to extend the time during which we are obliged to do so by an additional 15 months," the company said. "We understand that the Commission will review this matter and determine whether this is an appropriate step for Microsoft to take. We understand that the Commission may decide to impose other sanctions."
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.
If Microsoft is found to be in violation of EU antitrust laws, the company could face heavy fines. ZDNet cites EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia as saying the commission takes compliance with its decisions very seriously.
"And I trusted the company's reports were accurate," he's quoted as saying. "But it seems that was not the case, so we have immediately taken action."