European Commission probes Microsoft over browser choice screen compliance

By on July 17, 2012, 11:30 AM

The European Commission has launched a formal investigation on Microsoft over its failure to comply with commitments made in 2009 to settle a browser antitrust case. Back then the software giant had agreed to implement a ballot screen in Windows that would let European users choose a default browser from among 12 options presented in random order. The measure came into effect on February 22, 2010.

Apparently Microsoft did not include the mechanism in Windows 7 Service Pack 1, however, which has prevented 28 million PCs running the software from its release in February 2011 up until now to see the browser choice screen. The software giant was quick to respond to the European Commission’s concerns, attributing the oversight to a “technical error” and promising to remedy the problem via an update.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia isn’t taking it lightly. "We take compliance with our decisions very seriously. And I trusted the company's reports were accurate. But it seems that was not the case, so we have immediately taken action," Almunia said. Companies found to have breached legally binding commitments with the EC may be fined up to 10% of their total annual turnover.

The choice screen was delivered correctly to PCs running the original version of Windows 7, and to the relevant versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista. Microsoft estimates these make up around 90% of the PCs that should have received it. The company has already begun distributing a fix and offered to extend period for which it agree offer the browser choice screen by another 15 months.

Additionally, Microsoft asked a third party to conduct a "formal investigation" into how the technical error occurred and says it will provide a full report to the European Commission when their work is complete.

In all fairness it seems Microsoft is doing its part to amend the mistake and it doesn’t look like it ‘affected’ a majority of its European users either. It’s clear they don’t want to face another hefty fine on top of the €1.64 billion it has had to pay for not complying with another EC ruling that goes back to 1998.




User Comments: 13

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Det Det said:

Wow. Being big is a b*tch.

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

Yeah - I felt the EU went too far a long time ago.

ShadowDeath said:

Truth be told the computers that Microsoft's operating systems are installed on do not belong to Microsoft, they belong to the users. There for it is NOT Microsoft's responsibility to sell software for other companies or ensure the safety of the user's personal data beyond the scope of the operating system's security. That's how I see it, apparently the EU doesn't share that same opinion, but that's what makes us "Free" vs their version of "Free" I guess.

Lurker101 said:

In the interest of fairness, do Apple have to put up with this on their OS, or are they allowed to push for the use of Safari as much as they like?

You're buying a Microsoft OS. Seems only right that you get a Microsoft browser pre-installed. There's no constraints preventing you from immediately installing and using a different browser if you want, so what's the problem?

ShadowDeath said:

I disagree with ShadowDope. Microsoft should not get to push only their crap on their OS. They should pretend to be a software company and provide their software on the various OS's out there. But, they probably can't because they do not have a clue.

That's a nice original insult you came up with there. I almost feel dumb because your insult proves your statement on an epic scale.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

In the interest of fairness, do Apple have to put up with this on their OS, or are they allowed to push for the use of Safari as much as they like?

You're buying a Microsoft OS. Seems only right that you get a Microsoft browser pre-installed. There's no constraints preventing you from immediately installing and using a different browser if you want, so what's the problem?

I agree 100%. Microsoft needs to tell the EU to get bent. Apple would.

Dustyn Dustyn said:

Why can't we all just get along? Now who needs hugs!? HUGS!!!

Emexrulsier said:

To be fair its only retards who need to be offered a choice screens anyways and generally its only retards who use IE so just leave it be. This EU bollox lark need to piss off and do some real work instead of finding ways to make revenue.

Emexrulsier said:

Also if they do fine them 10% where does this money actually go?

Det Det said:

Oh jesus. You guys make me so sad. These competition laws by the European Community have existed in Europe since the 60s, for crying out loud. If there's a company selling their market dominating product in Europe, they need to be following some strict rules in order to do so.

And MS was ordered to pay _nothing_ in this case - not until they _failed to comply_ with SP1 (whether this was intentional or not, a bit surprising that they didn't double-check there). So they were first allowed to do what they want with IE, no questions asked. Then, as the time passed on, they were ordered to at least inform their users that "hey, you could be using these things too" - while still letting IE come preinstalled (although removable). Then they created SP1 and somehow the whole company forgot all about it (or at least the ones who didn't weren't paid much attention to). Well. Yeah, sorry, but that's really just something you gonna have to pay the price for.

And I'm not even saying it's making a huge difference to have the browser ballot, in fact in the bigger picture I don't think it's making any at all, but if a whole _continent_ makes a decision like this, then there's not much you can do about it. You either start crying or comply with what is ordered. And what actually _was_ ordered. A simple f*cking ballot to pick what browser you wanna install. Oh my god, that's just something you just can't implement.

The fact that some of you guys've decided in your heads that they've made these up to bill huge companies in order to survive in their economical struggle is utterly ridiculous. I mean, it just _hurts_ to know that people can be so blatantly stupid. And there's not a thing I can do about it. Maybe come up with some wake-up posts like this but, really, that's about it.

Guest said:

^The fact that these ridiculous laws existed since the sixties only compounds the issue. Anyone with any objectivity can tell that this is just the EU trying to assert their power and impose fines and diktats just to prove they can.

Just because Microsoft enjoys a so called market dominance; that shouldn't invite the ire of over zealous bureaucrats. There are credible alternatives to Windows and Internet Explorer. Having a choice box imposed in the first place is asinine in it of itself, but to "check" on its implementation so they can fabricate a failure to comply is equally stupid.

Of course though Microsoft will pay some hush money to these clowns and they will give a pat on the back and look for another company to fleece.

Guest said:

European "Leaders" wonder why their economies are in the tank when the continue to spend other people's money with abandon and squeeze businesses dry with ridiculous penalties and restrictive laws.

NightAngel79 said:

In the interest of fairness, do Apple have to put up with this on their OS, or are they allowed to push for the use of Safari as much as they like?

You're buying a Microsoft OS. Seems only right that you get a Microsoft browser pre-installed. There's no constraints preventing you from immediately installing and using a different browser if you want, so what's the problem?

I agree 100%. Microsoft needs to tell the EU to get bent. Apple would.

^This

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