Unnamed sources are saying that the EU plans to levy fines against Microsoft, perhaps before the end of March. The EU said Microsoft recently failed to comply with a settlement that required it to offer EU consumers a choice of browsers.
Foo Yun Chee with Reuters first broke the story, reporting, “EU competition regulators plan to fine Microsoft Corp before the end of March in a case tied to the U.S. software giant’s antitrust battle in Europe more than a decade ago, three people familiar with the matter said on Thursday…. ‘The Commission is planning to fine Microsoft before the Easter break,’ one of the sources said, adding that it is possible that procedural issues could push back the decision.”
All Things D’s John Paczkowski confirmed the report, writing, “And sources familiar with the matter have confirmed to AllThingsD that this is indeed the case at this time. No word yet on the size of the fine, but given EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia’s public threats over the misstep, penalties could be severe. Whatever they are, sources say the EC will likely announce them sometime in March.”
The Register’s Kelly Fiveash explained, “The company is being investigated over its supposedly erroneous banishment of the ‘browser choice’ screen, which would have required European customers to pick which surfing tool they wanted to run on their Windows-based machines. A service pack update to Windows 7 omitted the feature, which had been installed as part of a previous Euro competition agreement. Microsoft claimed it failed to spot that it was no longer including the browser choice screen for 17 months: the vendor has described the apparent mishap as a ‘technical error’ rather than a deliberate action to push Internet Explorer.”
Computerworld’s Greg Keizer noted, “Last October, the commission filed formal charges against Microsoft as Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s top antitrust official, talked tough about fines. ‘Companies should be deterred from any temptation to renege on their promises or even to neglect their duties,’ Almunia said during an October news conference. While it’s unlikely that the commission will impose the maximum fine — under the law that could reach nearly $9 billion — last summer Almunia noted that Microsoft’s non-compliance was unprecedented and used the phrase ‘severe consequences’ when talking about possible actions by his agency.”