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EC Charges Microsoft with Antitrust Violations Again

This time the EC has sent the company a formal statement of objections

Microsoft is having a déjà vu moment.

It's in the soup again with the European Commission and is expecting a hefty fine that could theoretically reach 10% of its annual revenues, or $7 billion, something the EC has never done before but then the EC has never met a recidivist like Microsoft before. It's supposedly the second time Microsoft has ignored an EC order.

This time the EC has sent the company a formal statement of objections (SO) for breaching a 2009 deal that required it to offer European Windows users a choice of rival browsers via a so-called Browser Ballot Screen that lets them download the widgetry.

Microsoft put it down to an accidental technical glitch that started in February of last year with the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and went unnoticed until this past July. It sent out a fix to a reported 28 million users and offered to extend its EC commitment to March of 2016, tacking on an additional two years to its original pledge.

However, it doesn't seem like the EC will be put off despite Microsoft's admission of guilt.

Evidently intending to make an example of Microsoft, Europe's antitrust czar said, "This is a very serious message not to infringe the commitments that had been agreed. Companies should be deterred from any temptations to renege on their commitments or even neglect their duties."

There's also new trouble over Windows 8 and browsers.

Almunia told a press conference in Brussels Wednesday that "We have raised issues with Microsoft relating to Windows 8. If a user decides to set a rival browser as a default browser, there should not be an unnecessary warning in Windows or confirmations by the user and the Internet Explorer icon should also be unpinned from the Start screen. We expect Microsoft to address these issues."

Microsoft apparently means to make the necessary changes by the end of the week when Windows 8 is released.

Microsoft has already paid the EC over $2 billion in fines and, conscious of its precipitous situation, released a statement Wednesday saying, "We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it. Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we are strengthening our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again. We sincerely apologize for this mistake and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commission."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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