Microsoft fined $733 million for 'forgetting' browser choice screen

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The European Commission has slapped Microsoft with a €561 million fine for failing to do as it was told and make it easier for users to choose a different web browser.

Back in 2009, the company was found guilty of anti-trust practices and ordered to give Windows users a 'choice screen', offering them an alternative to the then hugely-dominant Windows Explorer.

While Microsoft complied initially, though, it failed to include the choice screen when  it launched Windows 7 Service Pack 1 in February 2011 - prompting the EC to sigh deeply and take up the cudgel once more. Last July, it announced that it was opening proceedings against the company again.

"In 2009, we closed our investigation about a suspected abuse of dominant position by Microsoft due to the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows by accepting commitments offered by the company," says Commission vice president in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia.

"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. Of course, such decisions require strict compliance. A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly."

The Commission is particularly put out as this is the first time it's ever had to fine a company for failing to comply.

"In the calculation of the fine the Commission took into account the gravity and duration of the infringement, the need to ensure a deterrent effect of the fine and, as a mitigating circumstance, the fact that Microsoft has cooperated with the Commission and provided information which helped the Commission to investigate the matter efficiently," it says.

Microsoft's excuse is that it simply forgot to include the screen - an expensive mistake, if so.