Business Technology

Sunday 22 October 2017

Microsoft faces €5.7bn EU fine for breaking browser promise

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Microsoft must face the music.
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Microsoft must face the music.

Foo Yun Chee

EU antitrust regulators have charged Microsoft with breaking a promise to offer rival browsers to consumers, which could result in a hefty fine in a long-running dispute that has already cost the company over €1bn.

The world's biggest software company promised three years ago to offer browser choices, in a bid to settle an EU antitrust investigation and avoid a penalty that could have amounted to 10pc of its global turnover.

But the EU Commission, which acts as antitrust watchdog in the European Union, said Microsoft had not fulfilled its pledge between February last year and July this year, confirming a Reuters report yesterday.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Microsoft must face the music.

"If companies enter into commitments, they must do what they are committed to do or face the consequences. Companies should be deterred from any temptation to renege on promises or even to neglect their duty," Mr Almunia said.

Mr Almunia also said he had warned Microsoft about access to rival browsers on Windows 8, the latest version of the company's flagship product which will be released tomorrow.

Risk

"We have been in contact with them regarding Windows 8. I have precisely transmitted . . . what are my concerns, what kind of presentation should be avoided if they don't want to take the risk of a new investigation," he said.

Microsoft could face a significant fine as it is the second time it has failed to comply with an EU order.

A sanction could top $7.4bn (€5.7bn) or 10pc of its revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012 -- but the final figure is expected to be lower, as the infringement covered a relatively short period of time.

Microsoft, which has been penalised €1.36bn (€1.05bn) in the last decade for infringing EU rules, apologised. It has four weeks to reply to the Commission's "statement of objections" or charge sheet.

"Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened and we are strengthening our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again," the company said in a statement.

Mr Almunia told the briefing he had no reason to go after Microsoft's operating system for tablets, a market that includes rivals Apple and Google. (Reuters)

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