It might be a nightmare for the software giant Microsoft. Due to “Browser Ballot” blunder, the European Commission (EU) planned to fine Microsoft a big amount. But who knew that EU will really fine Microsoft such big amount? Recently, EU has fined Microsoft a whooping US$730 million for failing to provide clients with a choice of Internet browser, as it had promised to do. Details inside.
Four years ago, means in 2009, Microsoft and European Union had made a settlement between them. This settlement was done to eliminate the antitrust concerns against Internet Explorer by other browser vendors. However, according to the settlement, Microsoft was obliged to give Windows users in Europe the freedom to choose what browsers (freedom of choosing Browser is termed “Browser Ballot”) they wanted to download and install on their computers by redirecting them to browserchoice.eu when they boot up their systems for the first time. The browserchoice.eu website, which is hosted by Microsoft, contains download links to several browsers including Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Maxthon, Opera, and Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer. Everything was going fine until 2011.
In 2011, Microsoft released a Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) update. And after releasing the SP1 update, the pop-up dialog box that points users to the aforementioned website became unavailable to the 15-million EU users from May 2011 to July 2012. At that time, Internet Explorer became the default browser though they didn’t want. EU informed Microsoft about the “mishap,” but the damage was already done. So, EU started an investigation into the issue in July and in October it decided that Microsoft had indeed broken the rules.
Microsoft said that the dialog box that seemed to be “disappeared was still in place”, but it couldn’t be seen due to a “technical error.” The software giant also mentioned that it was unaware about the issue until the EU had informed in July 2012. However, later Microsoft apologized to EU for the mishap saying, “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.”
But recently the EU has fined the company €561 million (around $732 million) for breaking the 2009 antitrust agreement. According to the European Commission, the fine was calculated with the consideration of the gravity and duration of the infringement as well as Microsoft’s cooperation on the matter. EU also noted that this is the first time a company has ever been fined for “non-compliance with a commitments decision.”