EU Fines Microsoft for Failing to Comply with Browser Ballot

The European Union has imposed a €561 million fine on Microsoft for failing to offer the browser ballot screen it promised to ship with all versions of Windows. The European Union was said to have launched an investigation last summer after receiving complaints that Microsoft was not offering the browser ballot to all users. The ballot screen is a pop-up designed to give customers the ability to choose which browser they want to use to surf the web. In September, word got out that the EU was preparing to lay charges against Microsoft for its mistake.

Today, the European Commission announced that it fined Microsoft for failing to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 from May 2011 until July 2012. According to the European Commission, 15 million Windows users in the EU did not see the choice screen during this period and Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that time. 

Indeed, Microsoft has admitted that the browser ballot pop-up was missing from some versions of Windows. In a statement released back in July, Redmond said that this was due to a software glitch that it worked quickly to fix. Microsoft estimated that around 90 percent of computers received the BCS software as planned. As for the remaining 10 percent, the company said it began developing a fix one business day after the problem was discovered. A day after that, the company began distributing the BCS software to Windows 7 SP1 PCs that missed out on the software the first time around. What's more, Redmond offered to extend the period of time it's obligated to offer users this choice by more than a year. However, it seems the EU wasn't satisfied with Microsoft's efforts to rectify the mistake.

"In 2009, we closed our investigation about a suspected abuse of dominant position by Microsoft due to the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows by accepting commitments offered by the company," said Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia. "Legally binding commitments reached in antitrust decisions play a very important role in our enforcement policy because they allow for rapid solutions to competition problems. Of course, such decisions require strict compliance. A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly."

According to the European Commission, the fine was calculated with the consideration of the gravity and duration of the infringement as well as Microsoft's cooperation on the matter.

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  • silver565
    I wonder why Apple doesn't have to give a list of browsers on their iPhones?

    I never really understood why the EU kicked up a big fuss about this. Microsoft should be able to package whatever they like with their OS, just like other companies do with their operating systems. Android, iOS, Ubuntu... whatever you pick..
  • curiousclive
    Microsoft should have done what they threatened and not supply IE on their OS. Then let see how you get to choose a browser when you can't even connect to internet. From the very first windows OS you could download any browser you liked by launching IE and going to the sites. so always the consumer had the choice I did not require a browser choice page.
    The only people that are going to pay this fine is the consumer as the cost will be passed on in the price of the OS.
    So thank you very much EU for increasing my costs unnecessary.
  • EddieLomax
    Actually no supplying Explorer could have been very devious. Just sell two editions of Windows to give users a "choice", one with and one without IE, but both at the same price, then let the free market decide.

    I'm not sure how the EU could get around that since it gives users a free choice (governed by demand felt by retailers).