The European Commission fined Microsoft €561 million for failing to adhere to its commitments to offer Windows users a choice of internet browser.

In 2009, the Commission closed its investigation about a suspected abuse of dominant position by Microsoft due to the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows by accepting commitments offered by Microsoft. Microsoft made a commitment to make available for five years in the EEA, a choice screen enabling users to choose which web browser they wanted to install.

A Commission investigation in July 2012 found that some 15 million Windows users in the EU were denied the opportunity to choose other web browsers (such as Chrome, Safari, and Firefox) from May 2011 until July 2012. When the matter emerged, Microsoft immediately owned up to the facts and explained that it was due to a technical problem.

The Commission had the power to fine Microsoft up to 10% of its global annual revenue in the preceding business year, which would have totalled over €5 billion based on 2012 figures, but fined it the lesser amount of €561 million, taking into account mitigating factors, including:

  • Microsoft’s co-operation with the Commission
  • The fact that Microsoft had restored the browser choice screen as soon as the omission was reported

Microsoft has paid some €2 billion in competition-related EU fines over the past decade, but this is the first time the Commission has fined a company for non-compliance with a commitments decision.

The Commission has indicated that it will monitor companies more closely after it accepts their commitments. This fine serves as a warning to organisations who disregard EU competition rules whether intentionally or not. It emphasises the need for ongoing monitoring of commitments which have been given to regulatory bodies.=