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06 March 2013, 12:32

EU fines Microsoft €561 million for browser choice failure

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EU logo The European Commission has fined Microsoft €561 million (£484 million/$732 million) for dropping the Browser Choice Screen in a Windows 7 update. This is the first time ever that the Commission has had to fine a company for non-compliance with an anti-trust commitment.

In December 2009, the Commission made Microsoft commit to address competition concerns in the browser market by ensuring that for the next five years it would offer users a choice screen of browsers so that they could make an "informed and unbiased" selection for their web browser. In March 2010, the Browser Choice Screen went live in Windows and users who had Internet Explorer set as their default, and users performing new installs, were presented with it. Between March and November 2010, 84 million browsers were downloaded.

But when Microsoft released Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) in May 2011, it failed to include the screen. Microsoft says it was a technical glitch which led to the omission. It took until July 2012 for the omission to be detected and documented at which point the commission opened an investigation; in October 2012 it informed Microsoft of its issues with the non-compliance. In November 2012, Mozilla estimated that it had lost between six to nine million downloads of Firefox over the fifteen months. The Commission reports now that it believes 15 million windows users did not see the "Browser Choice Screen" during that time.

The €561 million fine was calculated based on the gravity and duration of the infringement, but Microsoft's cooperation with the Commission has been cited as a mitigating factor in what could have resulted in a fine of up to 10 per cent of the company's total turnover for the preceding year.


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