New mega-fine for Microsoft for non-compliance with browser choice commitments

Today Microsoft has been fined €561.000.000,00 by EU Commission for failing to comply with its commitments, signed in 2009 and legally binding until 2014, to offer users a browser choice screen enabling them to easily choose their preferred web browser.

The ruling is related to Windows 7 Service Pack 1, where from May 2011 until July 2012 users have not been provided with the choice screen enabling them to choose in an informed and unbiased manner which web browser they could install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft’s web browser.

This is the first time that the Commission has had to fine a company for non-compliance with a commitments decision. Article 9 of the EU’s Antitrust Regulation (1/2003) allows the Commission to conclude an antitrust investigation by making legally binding the commitments offered by the companies concerned, instead of apply sanctions provided by Article 7. In any case, if a company breaks such commitments, Article 23 (2) of the Antitrust Regulation empowers the Commission to impose fines of up to 10% of its total turnover in the preceding business year.

By the way, Microsoft won’t care so much about the half-billion fine: it seems that the company has something like $51 billion in overseas cash, much of it earned in Europe, that will not be transferred to the US for fiscal reasons. Basically, to pay such a fine means to pay the cost of maintaining market share for its desktop browser.

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