Microsoft Corporation was fined $733 million by the European Union for breaking a pledge to provide PC users with a choice of Internet browsers when installing the Windows operating system. This is the first time that a company has failed to keep up their end of a bargain with the European authorities.
Back in 2009, Microsoft made a broad settlement with the European Commission to resolve disputes that Windows had a dominance which spanned for over a decade. Microsoft agreed to pay 860 million euros and promised to give Windows users the option of choosing another browser besides Internet Explorer.
Microsoft failed to stick to this deal for around 15 million installations of Windows 7 in Europe from May 2011 to July 2012. Microsoft acknowledged the failure last year.
“We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it,” said Microsoft. “We provided the commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to help avoid this mistake – or anything similar – in the future.”
The European Commission’s top competitor regulator Joaquin Almunia said at a news conference in Belgium that the fine reflects the size of the violation and its length. This fine was intended to make an example out of Microsoft, but the European Commission could have fined Microsoft up to 10% of their annual global sales during the period of the violation.
“A failure to comply,” stated Almunia, “is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly.”