On Wednesday, the European Union fined Microsoft Corp 561 million euros ($731 million) for failing to offer users a choice of web browser, an unprecedented sanction that will act as a warning to other firms concerned in EU antitrust disputes.
It said that the US software company had broken a legally binding commitment made in 2009 to make sure that consumers had a choice of how they access the internet, rather than defaulting to Microsoft’s Explorer browser.
An investigation found that Microsoft had failed to honour that obligation in software issued between May 2011 and July 2012, which means 15 million users were not given a choice.
It is the first time the European Commission anti-trust authority, has handed down a fine to a company for failing to meet its obligations.
Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, told that “If companies agree to offer commitments which then become legally binding, they must do what they have committed to do or face the consequences.”
He added that “I hope this decision will make companies think twice before they even think of intentionally breaching their obligations or even of neglecting their duty to ensure strict compliance.”
Microsoft said in a statement that “We 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.”