EU is getting ready to sue Microsoft which could result in a fine as high as $7.4 billion

Remember that browser choice screen Microsoft promised to include in all EU-destined Windows PCs from 2009 onwards? That same browser choice screen Microsoft “accidentally” forgot to include in Windows 8 but has now promised to add it? Yeah, well, despite Microsoft’s assurance, EU regulators have finalized their probe into Microsoft and are getting ready to file formal charges against the company.

Reuters is quoting EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia as saying that the commission is working towards formally charging Microsoft:

The next step is to open a formal proceeding into the company’s breach of an agreement. We are working on this. It should not be a long investigation because the company itself explicitly recognized its breach of the agreement.

This isn’t Microsoft’s first dance with the EU; Microsoft has already paid over $1.28 billion in fines over the years. This, however, could potentially be Microsoft’s costliest. If found guilty, Microsoft can be fined up to 10% of total global revenues for fiscal 2012. This sum comes out to a whopping $7.4 billion.

Of course it is unlikely Microsoft will actually be fined that total amount, especially since Microsoft has been seemingly cooperating with the Competition Commission. However, some European lawyers warn that the commission is looking to “make an example” out of Microsoft due to the size of the company, the number of breaches related to the 2009 agreement, and the fact that Microsoft keeps butting heads with the EU. Seeing as the Competition Commission is no stranger to levying significantly large fines (Intel holds the records for the single highest fine by the EU — $1.36 billion), this “technical glitch”, as Microsoft calls it, may cost Microsoft a large sum of money.

[via Reuters | Image via Jack Zalium]

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  • J.L.

    What about the (10-inch) tablet monopoly? Aren’t iPads computers as well? How can patent trolling, walled garden, etc. not be anti-competitive? Look at the money Apple has.

  • clockmendergb

    They have been on Microsoft’s case because its anti competitive if by default you only have one choice.
    Yes people can download another browser and another antivirus but a big percentage will not because the choice is not there .
    Not everybody is a computer wizkid and with the advent of laptops its even less important to be techi.

    The Eu is in the business of looking after the majority of its citizens and keeping competition alive .
    Microsoft is a virtual Monopoly and if left alone as in the USA it will have no real competition.
    In Europe there is a much larger pool of Linux users and a lot of the free and shareware programs have originated from there.
    Microsoft is not in business to compete.
    it wants domination of the market.
    A few years ago Microsoft charged dollar for pound in the UK and the same for the Euro.
    that made it 30% more expensive to buy.
    That has changed .
    Now the software price is adjusted for the currency and costs about the same.
    All because the EU was diligent and kept up the pressure.
    The Browser thing has been going on for years and its time Microsoft did as it promised.
    With Win 8 it should be very easy to give the choices as it should have been designed into it.
    They have no excuse with this one

    yes they need to go after Apple as well.

    I guess you have realized I am English and have a rather large soft spot for real competition.

    Its great to have a US spell check or everything I write would be full of spelling errors.

  • @Ashraf: Personally I agree with you and don’t think they’re actually trying to use Microsoft as a “bank”. But I do think something is fishy.

  • DonFG

    I have been really trying to understand this since it’s inception and can’t wrap my head around it.

    Is Apple being sued for the same thing?
    Is Unix being sued for the same thing?
    Is Linux and any other operating system being sued for the same thing?

    Are they also suing Auto manufactures because I cannot walk into a Chevy dealership and buy a Corvette with a ford engine in it? Or I want TOM TOM for my GPS and not Chevy’s own PROPRIETARY GPS.

    Or how about all the smart TV’s going on the market. I don’t see a choice of browsers in them.

    This is as stupid as telling a game console manufacturer to make it mandatory to have different options for browsers.

    1. Here is the simple fact. If you are too STUPID to load your browser of choice you have NO business operating a computer let alone breed.

    Then there are those who are saying it’s anti-competitive, to those I say refer to 1 above.

    I have a perfect solution, only allow the export of a completely stripped out version of MS operating system to be exported out of the US. Give the EU Windows 3.1 and see how much EU consumers Btch about that.

    This is nothing more the EU EXTORTION!

  • DoktorThomas

    I’m lovin’ it. On the other side of the pond, government is more concerned with forcing MSFT to aid in their spying on/tracking users of the Internet. Who will sue the federal government?
    In either event, where are all you genius code writers? It’s past time for new OS’s that run on PC.

  • Peter

    Roumors say Windows 8 will come out october 26 this year. Because MS gives the release candidate away for free it would be unfair to punish them now. But at end of october things look different.
    P.S.: à propos roumors and carifications

  • Ashraf

    @Samuel: I doubt it. If the EU was simply interested in extorting money out of Microsoft, they could have slapped Microsoft with a huge anti-competitive fine back in 2009 instead of agreeing to this deal.
    Unless proven otherwise, I’m operating on the premise the Competition Commission is trying to do what they think is in the best interest of computer users. That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with them, though.

  • @Ashraf: Was something like 7/8 months if I remember correctly. I don’t think its justification for them not paying. But since they’d pay less if it was dealt with earlier I can’t help but wonder if someone decided to wait on purpose…

  • Ashraf

    @Samuel: Was it a year? I haven’t kept track of the timeline. In any case, lack of EU monitoring is not proper justification for Microsoft dodging their duties under the settlement.

  • @Ashraf: I do agree that MS shouldn’t have broken their agreement but they got away with it for almost a year before anyone noticed? That sounds like a problem on the EU’s side to me…

  • Ashraf

    @Samuel: LMAO! While I don’t particularly agree with EU’s original decision to force Microsoft into adding a browser select screen, I believe Microsoft deserves more than a slap on the wrist for breaking the agreement it made with the EU. Right or wrong, Microsoft agreed to do something and it can’t get away with not doing it just because it is a multi-billion dollar corporation.

  • I think one of my Twitter friends put it best. The EU plans to use Microsoft as a way to get out of the economic crises…