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EU Slaps Microsoft with Charges Over Browser Ballot

Microsoft's relationship with the European Union has been pretty rocky over the years and earlier this summer there were reports that the two were 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. In September, word got out that the EU was preparing to lay charges against Microsoft for its mistake.

Today, the European Union did just that. The European Union today announced that it has sent Redmond its statement of objections with the prelimary view that Microsoft failed to make good on the 2009 legally binding agreement.

"In its statement of objections, the Commission takes the preliminary view that Microsoft has failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011," the EU said. "From February 2011 until July 2012, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen. Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period."

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.

"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."

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 users to use IE without first informing them of their options. The EU's statement of objections is a formal step in Commission investigations. Microsoft can respond to the objections in writing and request an oral hearing to present comments. The European Commission then makes a final decision once both parties have exercised their rights of defence. If Microsoft is found guilty of breaching its commitment, it faces fines of up to 10 percent of its total annual turnover.

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  • chuckydb
    This is completely stupid.
    You want an other browser, you are free to download a new one, noone is stopping you.

    The EU should mabey attack something more relevant, like how Apple maniacly controls everything on it's closed garden product, or Amazone taking an open source OS and closing it down for it's kindle.

    Come on, the browser issue is WAY outdated.
    Reply
  • romansky
    @chuckydb you statement is not completely true, the way windows 8 is integrated with the browser is seriously limiting any option of using other browsers on the market (I know this since I got a "private" preview of windows 8 and I asked this exact question)
    Reply
  • davewolfgang
    If I were MS, I'd tell the EU to go take a long walk off a short pier (but I'm use MUCH more colorful terms than I can post here...).

    And PULL all MS from EU - and watch the people SCREAM!!! Just like any other FREAKIN' product out there, you buy it - you get what you get!! If you don't like what's in it - don't buy it!!!

    Why the F should a company have to put a COMPETING product PRE-LOADED in it's own product??!??!?!??!??!?!?!??!??!?!?
    Reply
  • romansky
    Downvote? hmm.. How many MS payroll people are visiting this forum?
    You can not trust anything these days anymore *sigh*..
    Reply
  • jonjonjon
    this is so dumb. im all for government slamming companys when they deserve it. something the us gov cant do since they have all be bought. i agree you dont want the to use ie dont use it and download something else. ms is not forcing anyone to use ie and they are not preventing the installation/use of competing browsers. whats next ms wont be able to provide notepad or cmd prompt because its unfair? what about the new pdf app in windows 8 how does adobe or foxit feel about that? not providing a browser with an OS makes no sense and forcing a company to offer competitors products for free is what is not fair. i hope android and ios have a BCS with an ie option. what a joke.
    Reply
  • zero messiah
    I am curious. I have never used an Apple product. Do they (Apple) give you a choice when setting up one of their products, or Android for that matter, and if they don't, this argument seems slanted.
    Reply
  • ohim
    romansky@chuckydb you statement is not completely true, the way windows 8 is integrated with the browser is seriously limiting any option of using other browsers on the market (I know this since I got a "private" preview of windows 8 and I asked this exact question)Bullshit , i`m using Windows 8 RC and posting from Opera with Chrome installed also , no problems whatsoever, the only drawback you get from installing a secondary browser is that you won`t get IE in the full screen metro style , only the destkop mode works and this only if IE is not the default browser, why doesn`t EU asks Apple to make the same thing in their OS ?

    Some times i just wanna go and punch in the face a judge or who ever comes up with this stupid ideeas.
    Reply
  • djscribbles
    So do you guys in the EU also get the choice of what tires get put on your cars when you buy a new car?


    The funny thing is that IE isn't even very competitive with FF and Chrome. All of them are free, nobody is really making money directly from browsers. If a user is unaware of the major browsers out there, would presenting them with the choice between the browsers even do them any good? do they just choose the one that has the prettiest icon?


    In a time with more competition between OS's and browsers than ever, EU is just kicking MS while they are down by pulling anti-trust BS. MS will likely squeeze every penny of any fines right back out of the EU consumers anyway (though the idea of MS just disabling all windows based EU gov computers is rather entertaining, it would never happen).
    Reply
  • romansky
    ohimBullshit , i`m using Windows 8 RC and posting from Opera with Chrome installed also , no problems whatsoever, the only drawback you get from installing a secondary browser is that you won`t get IE in the full screen metro style , only the destkop mode works and this only if IE is not the default browser, why doesn`t EU asks Apple to make the same thing in their OS ? Some times i just wanna go and punch in the face a judge or who ever comes up with this stupid ideeas.
    First, I am a Linux user.
    Second, OSX (never mind I dont like Apple the company) is not running atop the Safari browser, this is not the case with W8 and IE (metro or what ever its called) mode.
    As you know, the common windows users never change defaults.
    Reply
  • warmon6
    romansky@chuckydb you statement is not completely true, the way windows 8 is integrated with the browser is seriously limiting any option of using other browsers on the market (I know this since I got a "private" preview of windows 8 and I asked this exact question)
    That's strange. I been using windows 8 since the Dev preview came out and i haven't had a single issue with running chrome and firefox on them....

    Maybe it windows 8 RT your talking about which i have no knowledge of....
    Reply