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EC Sends Microsoft an Official Complaint About Browser Ballot Problems

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The European Commission (EC) has sent Microsoft a Statement of Objections related to Microsoft’s failure to include a browser choice screen in Windows 7 between February 2011 and July 2012. Microsoft was required to offer European Windows users such a screen as a condition of an earlier antitrust settlement.

For All Things D, John Paczkowski wrote, “With an update to Windows 7 issued in early 2011, Microsoft unwittingly killed the ballot screen, and didn’t realize it had done so until it was alerted by the EC on July 2. And while the company corrected the error and apologized profusely for it, that hasn’t done much to ease the EC’s ire. ‘If companies enter into commitments, they must do what they have committed to do or face the consequences,’ European competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia said today in remarks to the press. ‘Therefore, companies should be deterred from any temptation to renege on their promises or even to neglect their duties.'”

The Register’s Anna Leach noted, “Microsoft will have a chance to respond to the Commission’s objections before the EU court takes a final decision. The issue has the potential to be a serious pain in the pocket for MS. If the commission decides that the commitment was breached, Microsoft may be fined up to 10 per cent of its total annual turnover.”

In response to the objections, Microsoft released an official statement, which said, “We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it. Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we have taken steps to strengthen our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again. We sincerely apologize for this mistake and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commission. In addition, after discussions with the Commission, we are changing some aspects of the way the Browser Choice Screen works on Windows 8 and will have those changes implemented when Windows 8 launches later this week.”

InformationWeek’s Thomas Claburn recalled, “Microsoft agreed to deploy a browser choice screen to address antitrust concerns related to its decision several years ago to tie Internet Explorer to its Windows operating system, still the dominant desktop operating system. The European Commission concluded that Microsoft’s actions distorted competition, hindered innovation, and created artificial incentives for developers and content producers to design software and websites primarily for Internet Explorer.”

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