The European Commission imposed a fine of 561 million on Microsoft, on 6 March, for failing to comply with its commitments to offer users a ballot screen enabling them to choose their preferred web browser. On 16 December 2009, in the context of its decision on abuse of dominant position, the executive placed a binding obligation on Microsoft to no longer impose automatically its Internet Explorer browser, which was tied to the Windows operating system, but to give users a choice from March 2010 until 2014 via a ballot screen showing competing products. This decision was based on Article 9 of Regulation 1/2003 on procedures for abuse of dominant position. Article 23 of the same regulation authorises the executive to impose a fine of up to 10% of its total turnover in the preceding business year. The fine imposed on 6 March is equivalent to only 1% of this turnover.

The ballot screen was proposed in March 2010 to European users of Windows whose default browser was Internet Explorer. The measure was very successful among users: it resulted in the downloading of 84 million browsers to November 2010.

In 2012, however, the EU executive was alerted through a complaint that the browser ballot screen had disappeared from Windows 7 Service Pack 1 between May 2011 and July 2012. It opened an investigation in July 2012 and, before adopting a decision, formally notified Microsoft of its objections in October 2012. Fifteen million Windows users in the EU were deprived of the screen during this period. Microsoft acknowledged that the screen had disappeared but explained that this was a technical error. It released the following statement: "We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologised for it. We have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help prevent this error - or anything similar- in the future."

"This is the first time that the Commission has had to fine a company for non-compliance with an Article 9' commitments decision," commented Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. "Legally binding commitments reached in anti-trust decisions play a very important role...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT