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Microsoft charged with anti trust violation in Europe

Microsoft were charged yesterday in Europe with an antitrust violation for failing to live up to a prior agreement to give users of Windows software equal access to rival Internet browsers.

The decision was made by Joaquín Almunia, the European Union antitrust commissioner. The ruling could be costly for Microsoft as the fine will be related to defying the terms of an agreement made in 2009.

The New York Times adds “The case also represents the first time a company facing antitrust penalties from Europe’s top enforcer has been sent a so-called Statement of Objections for neglecting to comply with the terms of a settlement, which allows companies to avoid fines.”

Mr Almunia has placed Microsoft on notice to say that it must include adequate access to other browsers in European version of Windows 8, which launches on Friday this week. He also warned Microsoft officials ‘at the highest level possible’ of his concerns about Windows 8 and said they need to avoid the same problems unless they want to run the risk of new investigations.

Microsoft issued an apology in July and said it was a technical problem they only learned of recently. Microsoft never paid a fine in the 2009 settlement and introduced a ‘Browser Choice Screen’ inside Windows 7.

Microsoft issued a statement yesterday which read “We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it.”

“Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we are strengthening our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again.”

Microsoft are not the only company who may come under scrutiny as Joaquín Almunia’s office are talking to Google about their dominance in the internet search and advertising markets.

Joaquín Almunia legally can issue a fine up to 10 percent of a companies annual global revenue. The penalty in Microsoft’s case could be up to $7 billion, although the general consensus is that it won’t be close to that amount.

The largest fine was issued to Intel by the European antitrust authorities was $1.4 billion in 2009. Intel are still appealing that ruling.

Kitguru says: Joaquín Almunia added that the users of Windows 8 should be able to remove the icon for Internet Explorer from the start screens if they selected another browser as their default option.

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