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Microsoft Faces Fine from EU Over Browser Choice Issue

March 1, 2013

By Paul Thomson :: 8:58 AM

Microsoft runs afoul of Europe antitrust rules.Microsoft is facing a huge (in the billions of dollars) fine from the European Union over its failure to ensure that new PCs running the Windows operating system allowed users to choose which web browser to install.

EU regulators could levy the fine as early as the end of this month, but the exact amount is not yet known. This will mark the second time that the company has run afoul of European antitrust regulations regarding its Internet Explorer browser.

Microsoft claims that a technical error led to Windows PC’s failing to display a browser selection screen that the company had agreed to activate on startup for all new computers. This was done following complaints that preloading Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser as the default browsing application amounted to anti-competitive behavior. A glitch in the deploying the system left 28 million PCs without the browser choice screen for more than a year.

In October 2012, EU regulators first warned Microsoft about this gaffe, and announced that the maximum fine that could be assessed was about  $7.4 billion. The final number for this error may not reach quite that high, but Microsoft has already paid close to $2 billion to the EU over other related antitrust matters.

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has already been penalized by the company’s board for this error – his bonus was cut last year. It remains to be seen if the company will take further punitive action against executives for this continuing problem.