The European Commission (EC) fined US giant Microsoft Corp 561 million euros (US$730 million) yesterday for failing to provide customers with a choice of Internet browser, as it had promised to do.
The commission said this was the first time it was sanctioning a company for having failed to live up to commitments made to satisfy a previous EU complaint, making this a “very serious infringement.”
In 2009, the commission required Microsoft to offer customers a choice of Web browser through next year after complaints it was restricting them to its own product.
“Legally binding commitments reached in antitrust decisions play a very important role in our enforcement policy because they allow for rapid solutions to competition problems,” EC Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
An investigation had found that during the roll-out of Windows 7 in the period from May 2011 to July last year, some 15 million customers had no web browser choice for that time.
Microsoft acknowledged the failure yesterday, which it put down to technical problems.
“We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it,” the company said in a statement after the European Commission announced the penalty.
The EU has had a series of disputes with Microsoft, fining the company 899 million euros in 2008, subsequently reduced to 860 million euros, for failing to comply with an order to share product information with rivals so that their software could work with Windows.
Under EU law, a company found to have breached commitments made to resolve competition cases can face a fine of up to 10 percent of annual sales. Last year, Microsoft posted sales of just under US$74 billion.
The single biggest EU antitrust fine was against Intel Corp at 1.06 billion euros in 2009.