March 5, 2013 - 20:52 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - European antitrust officials are expected to impose a large fine on Microsoft on Wednesday, March 6, for failing to give users of the company’s Windows software the choice of competing Internet browsers, The New York Times reported.
It would be the first time the European Union has punished a company for neglecting to comply with the terms of an antitrust settlement. Microsoft and European antitrust officials reached a settlement over the browser-access issue in 2009. But last October, the Union’s antitrust chief, Joaquín Almunia, charged Microsoft with failing to live up to its terms.
Mr. Alumunia had warned Microsoft last summer that on some occasions its software was still not providing users to the full access to competing Web browser programs, as called for in the 2009 settlement. The company apologized in July, calling it a technical problem of which it had only recently become aware.
In October Mr. Almunia put Microsoft on notice that it must include adequate access to rival browsers in European versions of its next-generation operating system, Windows 8, which was about to go on sale.
The significance of the action expected Wednesday could reach beyond Microsoft. It come as Mr. Almunia’s office is negotiating with Google to try to settle the commission’s concerns about that company’s dominance of the Internet search and advertising markets.
The largest single fine ever levied by the European authorities in an antitrust case was €1.1 billion, or $1.4 billion, in 2009 against Intel for abusing its dominance in the computer chip market. Intel is still appealing that ruling.
Microsoft has paid a long series of fines to European regulators over the past decade.
In 2008, Microsoft was fined nearly €900 million in so-called periodic penalties for defying a decision that regulators had imposed on the company.
In June, the General Court, the second-highest in the Union, handed a small victory to Microsoft by reducing the fine by €39 million to €860 million after finding that the commission had miscalculated the amount.
Microsoft also paid fines of €497 million and €281 million for separate but related offenses, bringing the total to €1.7 billion during its battles so far with European regulators.