EU Hits Microsoft With $731 Million Antitrust Fine


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In July of last year, Microsoft was found to be in violation of an agreement it had made with EU regulators over a Web browser choice screen that was to be installed on every Windows PC sold in the region. There were talks of a fine for the past few months, but nothing had been done until now.

Reuters reports that the EU has hit Microsoft with a massive $731 million fine for violating the browser choice agreement of 2009. The regulators estimated that Microsoft's violation left up to 15 million users without a choice in which browser they choose.

The fine, while pretty drastic, could have been even worse. A report from last year found that the EU could have fined Microsoft up to 10 percent of its turnover, or $7 billion. The actual fine is still pretty formidable, however, and the EU's competition commission hopes that it deters other companies from violating their commitments.

"If companies agree to offer commitments which then become legally binding, they must do what they have committed to do or face the consequences," said Joaquin Almunia, the EU's competition commissioner. "I hope this decision will make companies think twice before they even think of intentionally breaching their obligations or even of neglecting their duty to ensure strict compliance."

Microsoft can appeal the decision, but it looks like the company will not do so. The company did say, however, that it has "taken steps to strengthen [their] software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake - or anything similar - in the future."

Now that Microsoft is out of the way, the EU can focus its efforts on Google. The search giant got away without a fine from the FTC over allegations of antitrust practices in its search results. Now the company is under the same scrutiny in the EU, but we won't know the commission's decision until after summer.