Microsoft got another threat from the European Commision on Tuesday. Over 28 million Windows 7 OS European users have complained that they could not choose between the Microsoft’s default Internet Explorer and other internet browsers, forcing them to use the former. Although Microsoft promptly registered an apology for what they claim was a technical error, they could be potentially facing yet another big fine.
Microsoft says, “While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologize for it.” The competition over internet browsers has always been a concern in the European Union. To alleviate the terse contest, Microsoft took conclusive steps to provide its users sufficient choice. The Windows users of Europe can use a ‘choice screen’ which helps them select any alternative internet browser to use until 2014. But the Windows 7 users who got the service pack 1 update in or after February 2011 have not found the ‘choice screen’ for their browser selection. Microsoft claimed to have fallen short in their responsibility as the European Commission declared an antitrust probe against the US software company. Incidentally, Microsoft has already lost hundreds of millions of Euros as fine for a different case. In 2008, European Commission fined Microsoft 899 million Euros for not complying with an order to share product information with other companies who wanted to work with Windows.
Joaquin Almunia, the European Union Competition Commissioner, stated in a news conference that they would put formal proceedings against Microsoft in motion. He said that if Microsoft’s breach if confirmed after their probe, there would be serious consequences and sactions- especially because Microsoft has already somewhat conceded the error on its part. If proven, infringement of legally-binding commitments by any company would result into fines over up to 10 per cent of the concerned company’s annual turnover. Alumnia also said that on Microsoft’s behalf, a report was released in December 2011 in Brussels stating that it was abiding by the commitments made in 2009, even though it was later revealed that Microsoft was in fact, breaking its own pledges. The Commissioner said, “I consider that commitments by companies themselves are a good way to solve competition problems… as an alternative to lengthy proceedings. But this can only work if companies implement these decisions fully.”
On the other hand, Microsoft said that it was under the belief that it was complying with the commitments when the December report was issued. The company did not realize that the ‘choice screen’ was missing until much later. They claimed that relevant software has been developed to fix the problem on July 2, only one business day after the folly was discovered. They released a statement saying they would see to it that the browser choice screen is distributed to all the affected users within a week. They also started their own investigation to find out how such an error could find its way into the operating system. With hundreds of millions of Euros at stake in form of fine, Microsoft cannot afford to make such a luxurious mistake again.