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No choice is no fun - especially Microsoft, who face $733 million fine

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Having no choice is no fun - and for not allowing their customers to choose their own Internet browser, software giant Microsoft has been slapped with a hefty $733 million fine by the European Union. This action is intended to give fair warning to other technology firms involved in antitrust disputes with the EU.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The E.U. says that the U.S. Company had broken a legally binding commitment made in 2009 to guarantee consumers a choice of browser, in lieu of defaulting to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Microsoft had proven to have failed to honor that obligation in software issued between May 2011 and July 2012, in an investigation conducted by the EU. In short, 15 million users were unaware that they had a choice.

"Legally binding commitments reached in antitrust decisions play a very important role in our enforcement policy," Joaquin Almunia, the EU's competition commissioner said. "A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly."

The fine is the first time the European Commission, the EU's antitrust authority, has fined a company for non-compliance with agreed commitments. While steep, the fine could have been much, much worse - the EU could have charged Microsoft up to 10 percent of its global turnover, or as much as $7.9 billion.

While this fine is "relatively" light, it still marks a firm sanction by the EU and will not go unnoticed by the likes of Google, which is involved in a dispute with the Commission over how it ranks search engine results.

Google is under pressure to offer concessions to prevent the antitrust authority moving to the next stage in the case, which could involve fines.

This action places other technology firms in the Commission's crosshairs in other cases.

Microsoft has a long and acrid relationship with the EU's powerful antitrust authority, which has now issued fines totaling 2.16 billion euros against the U.S. firm.

The Commission found that Microsoft in 2004 had abused its dominant market position in relation to the tying of Windows Media Player to the Windows software package and imposed fines.

To resolve other competition concerns, Microsoft undertook to offer users a browser choice screen allowing them to download a browser other than Explorer in 2009.

The Commission made that obligation legally binding for five years, until 2014, and initially the company complied. From March 2010 until November 2010, 84 million browsers were downloaded via the screen, the Commission reported this week.

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