Wednesday, March 6, 2013

EU Enforcing Settlement Agreement against Microsoft

Microsoft was fined over $700 million by the European Commission for failing to offer a choice of browsers in its computer operating system used by some fifteen million people in the EU. This agreement was the result of Microsoft's legal fight over competitive practices with the European Union that was settled in 2009, making a dozen internet browsers available for use in Windows. Apparently, Microsoft dropped the ability for choice during a recent service pack update. "Legally binding commitments reached in antitrust decisions play a very important role in our enforcement policy because they allow for rapid solutions to competition problems," said JoaquĆ­n Almunia, Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy. "Of course, such decisions require strict compliance. A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly." Microsoft retained outside counsel last year to conduct the investigation and offered to extend the compliance period while cooperating with the EU. The fine comes when Microsoft Internet Explorer's influence is waning globally as competitors like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have become increasingly popular. The European Commission has also been formally investigating Google. VP Almunia reportedly offered Google a settlement last year after finding that it might have abused its dominance in internet search and advertising by giving its own products an advantage over those of others, even while maintaining that it offered neutral results. Google and the EU have been negotiating since then, and a final agreement may not come until later this year, suggesting that the strategy of seeking quick results in antitrust technology cases through settlements instead of lengthy legal battles could be coming undone. See news items here and