EU regulators vote to fine Microsoft

Out-Law News | 04 Jul 2006 | 1:50 pm | 1 min. read

The European Union's antitrust regulators have voted to levy daily fines on Microsoft for continuing to breach a 2004 European Commission ruling, according to Associated Press.

Representatives of member states met yesterday to vote on whether to implement daily fines and will meet again next week to decide how much the fines should be. According to a European Commission ruling in December the fines could be up to €2 million a day.

No formal announcement will be made until the decision on the size of the fine has been taken. Under Commission rules, the panel of regulators must be consulted on two separate occasions before a fine can be given the green light. Any fine will be backdated to 15th December, the date of a Commission deadline to comply with its 2004 ruling.

Microsoft had been found by the Commission not to have complied with its order of 2004 to make it easier for other companies to make software for its operating systems. It was ordered to make available a version of its Windows operating system without its Media Player software and to make operating system details available to rival software producers.

The company was also fined a record €497 million at the time for abuse of its dominant market position. Microsoft is appealing that judgment, which was the result of a five year investigation.

If the fine goes ahead it is likely to be capped at €418 million but will be levied in addition to the original fine. It will be the first time the EU has punished failure to obey a past order in this way. That final decision is likely to be made next week.

Microsoft executives have been telling employees that they have been unable to comply because the EU has not made its technical specifications clear, according to an email leaked to Microsoft-watch.com.

"The second request (to offer protocols documentation to competitors) has been slightly more problematic," said the email, which appears to be sent to staff by Horacio Gutierrez, an associate counsel with the corporate and legal affairs department of Microsoft. "Compliance with this request requires clear articulation of the specific technical requirements by the EU, which has, until very recently, been reluctant to make their demands clear."

Past Microsoft statements have said that fines would be "unjustified and unnecessary", and the company has said that it is planning to deliver the last instalment of its compliance framework on time on 18th July.

According to a statement from the software giant, "Microsoft is dedicating massive resources to ensure we meet the aggressive schedule and high quality standard set by the Trustee and the Commission in this process. Our engineers are working around the clock to meet the seventh and final delivery date for this project, scheduled for 18 July."

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