Microsoft fined half-a-billion euros over browser choice
Computer giant punished for omitting a single line of code from Windows 7 update
MICROSOFT has been fined more than half-a-billion euros for denying its users a choice of web browser when using Windows 7 after engineers omitted a single line of code from an update.
The oversight meant that as many as 15 million people across the European Union were not presented with alternatives to the pre-installed Windows Explorer browser when they logged on, said the European Commission.
Microsoft agreed in 2009 to introduce a pop-up screen offering a range of different browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera after the EC competition commission ruled that it had an unfair advantage over its rivals because of the dominance of Windows in the desktop computer market.
"The error arose when Microsoft's own programmers forgot to include a single line of code that would have automatically triggered the 'browser choice' program on versions of Windows 7 running its first major update, called Service Pack 1," reports The Guardian.
It was Microsoft that informed the EC's competition arm when it realised the mistake in July 2012. It estimated that 28 million people could have been affected between February 2011 and July 2012. However, the EC used a figure of 15 million and a start date of May 2011.
"In theory the watchdog could have fined the firm 10 per cent of its global annual revenue, which would have totalled $7.4bn based on its 2012 report," reports the BBC. Instead it fined the company €561m.
Despite coming clean over the latest breach, it is by no means the first time Microsoft has fallen foul of European competition law. A previous case dating back to 1993 finally ended in 2004 when the company was found guilty of freezing out rivals in server software and products such as media players. It was fined €497m.
The company lost an appeal over that case and was subsequently fined a record €899m in 2008 by the EU, later reduced to €860m, for other uncompetitive practices.
"We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologised for it," said a spokesman for Microsoft after the latest ruling. ·