Microsoft has been fined $731 million (561 million euros) by the European Union for failing to offer consumers a choice of which browser to use and making Internet Explorer the default, the EU announced today.
The EU said Microsoft failed to live up to a commitment it made in 2009 to give European consumers a choice in what browser they wanted to use. Microsoft eventually developed a “browser choice screen” so people could choose between using Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, or Opera. But a “technical error” on Microsoft’s part prevented that screen from being part of Windows 7’s Service Pack 1 and therefore users were still defaulted to Internet Explorer.
There were early reports that Microsoft could be fined up to $7.9 billion by the EU for the “technical error,” but the total ended up being much less. Still, $731 million isn’t just pocket change, so this could act as a warning for other tech companies that might try to skirt EU orders.
“Legally binding commitments reached in antitrust decisions play a very important role in our enforcement policy,” Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, said in a statement. “Of course, such decisions require strict compliance. A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly.”
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