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European Union fines Microsoft $733 million for breaking a pledge over Web browser


The European Union has fined Microsoft €561 million ($733 million) for breaking a pledge to offer personal computer users a choice of Internet browsers when they install the company’s flagship Windows operating system. The penalty imposed by the EU’s executive arm, the Commission, is a first for Brussels: no company has ever failed to keep its end of a bargain with EU authorities before. In 2009, Microsoft struck a broad settlement with the Commission to resolve disputes over the company’s abuse of the dominance of Windows, which had spanned more than a decade. Back then, the company agreed to pay €860 million and promised to give Windows users the option of choosing another browser rather than having Microsoft’s Internet Explorer automatically installed on their machines.

Joachim Almunia
But Microsoft failed to stick to the deal for some 15 million installations of Windows 7 software in Europe from May 2011 until July 2012. The company admitted the failure last year, adding that it was a mistake. The Commission’s top competition regulator, Joaquin Almunia, said at a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday that the fine reflected the size of the violation and the length of time it went on for. It was also intended to make an example of Microsoft and deter other companies from doing same thing. In all, Microsoft has now paid €2.2 billion in fines to the Commission since 1998, when regulators opened their first investigations into the company after Sun Microsystems complained it had been denied access to technical documents. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer still has a 56 percent market share for Internet browsers on personal computers, according to statistics by Net Applications.
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