Microsoft will 'comply immediately' with browser-choice obligations, EU Competition Commissioner says

Out-Law News | 10 Sep 2012 | 5:00 pm | 1 min. read

Microsoft has agreed to comply with European Commission demands that it offer users of its Windows operating system the choice of using non-Microsoft internet browsers, according to the European Commission's Competition Commissioner.

Joaquín Almunia said that Microsoft's chief executive had detailed the company's commitment to comply with the demand, according to a report by Reuters news agency. 

The Commission is currently investigating whether Microsoft failed to comply with the "critical remedy" that it had imposed on the company in 2009 to settle concerns that the firm had breached EU competition laws.

"In my personal talks with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer he has given me assurances that they will comply immediately regardless of the conclusion of the anti trust probe," Almunia said, according to the Reuters report. Almunia described the issue as "very, very serious".

In July the European Commission opened an investigation into whether Microsoft failed to adhere to a "legally binding commitment" it gave in 2009 to provide users of its operating system with a screen enabling those users to easily choose between different internet browsers.

At the time Almunia said that the Commission had gathered evidence suggesting that Microsoft stopped displaying the screen in February 2011 following the launch of Windows 7 Service Pack 1. Almunia said, though, that Microsoft had told the Commission in December 2011 that it was still using the browser-choice screen.

The Commission previously dropped an investigation into alleged anti-competitive behaviour by Microsoft in 2009 on the basis that the software giant agreed to offer Microsoft Windows users the browser-choice screen. The Commission had been concerned that Microsoft had abused its dominant market position by 'tying' its Internet Explorer web browser to its near-universally used Windows operating system.

Competition law specialist Alan Davis of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, previously said that the Commission is unlikely to provide Microsoft with much leniency if it decides that sanctions should be imposed on the company following its investigation. Davis said the Commission is able to fine companies up to 10% of their global turnover, meaning that Microsoft could face a bill for up to $7 billion if it is found to have failed to comply with the Commission's demands.

In July Microsoft admitted that it had "fallen short" of its "responsibility" and blamed a lack of an update to its Windows 7 package on a "technical error", according to a statement issued by the firm and reported by news website CNET.