Microsoft Corp. is facing the prospect of a fresh, hefty fine by the European Union after the U.S. software giant failed to meet an earlier promise to offer users a choice of different Web browsers.
The European Commission on Wednesday filed a formal complaint against Microsoft for not following through on a commitment to offer its users alternatives to its own Internet Explorer Web browser on a recent version of its Windows program.
The Redmond, Wash., company had agreed to the measure three years ago and, if proven guilty, could face a maximum fine of as much as 10% of its total annual revenue, or $7.4 billion. Analysts, however, say it would be less.
There’s less and then there’s a lot less. I would offer the suggestion that one never stand between a bureaucrat and some loot.
During a news conference in Brussels, the EU’s antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia underlined the gravity of the offense and signaled his intention to use the case as a deterrent to other firms. This is the first time a company is being investigated for breaching its commitments.
"This is a very serious message not to infringe the commitments that had been agreed," Mr. Almunia said."Companies should be deterred from any temptations to renege on their commitments or even neglect their duties," he said.
In a statement, Microsoft said it "sincerely apologized" and reiterated that the mistake was a technical glitch on its Windows 7 version, known as Service Pack 1.
It’s going to be an expensive mistake.