Microsoft was fined $731 million by the European Union for not honoring an agreement to offer consumers a choice of Web browsers with its operating system. The penalty was assessed after an investigation revealed that Microsoft failed to live up to a 2009 agreement with the EU, in which the software company said it would give consumers the option to use a Web browser other than Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer.
While Microsoft did originally honor the agreement, between May 2011 and July 2012–when the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 was released–the onscreen option to download a different browser was removed. For its part, Microsoft said the omission was the result of a technical error, and released this statement:
We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologized for it. We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake – or anything similar – in the future.
All things considered, the fine is relatively light, in that the EU could have penalized Microsoft up to $7.9 billion. This is not the first time, though, that Microsoft has run afoul of the EU, which has fined the company more than $2.8 billion over the years for a variety of antitrust infractions.