Mar
08
2013

Microsoft gets 561 million euro fine for missing browser ballot “oversight”

In 2009, an antitrust agreement in Europe ruled that Microsoft weren’t playing fair with internet browsers. By including Internet Explorer into Windows by default; making their own software prefer to use it over alternative browsers; and not providing an easy mechanism to get alternative browsers, the European Union (EU) decided that Microsoft was abusing its widespread use on European computers to favour its own internet browser. As a result, Microsoft were fined $1.44 billion US Dollars; but that’s not all. They also agreed that for five years, Microsoft would have to offer a Browser Choice screen to European users of Windows, providing a choice of the five major browsers and a reasonable amount of other alternatives, so that EU customers could choose how THEY wanted to access the internet; and if they wanted to choose other than Internet Explorer, could find out more about or quickly download any of the alternatives.

Browser Ballot Screen

An example of the “Browser Ballot” screen Microsoft implemented to provide European customers the required choice of browser.

For a long time, Microsoft honoured this promise. But when Windows 7 SP1 was released over a year ago, a series of complaints – now known to have included reports from Google and Opera – were submitted to the EU claiming the ballot was no longer being shown. After discovering it had been gone for 16 months, Microsoft claimed the problem to be a “technical error” and restored it – but according to the EU, this resulted in 15 million Windows users not seeing the ballot box and instead defaulting to Internet Explorer, which broke the agreement.

Today, the EU fined Microsoft for breaching the agreement, ordering them to pay 561 million Euros (approximately $732 million US Dollars, or £487.7 million British pounds) for the “mistake” – which may not sound like a lot for a multi-billion-dollar company, but actually accounts for 3% of Microsoft’s profits for the entire 2012. Microsoft, for its part, has claimed it will not appeal the fine and takes all responsibility, offering this quote:

“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.”

This has got to be one of the more expensive “technical errors” in recent tech world history.

3 Responses

  1. As Apple learned the hard way, if everyone’s company is dropping Microsoft on their desk, then the majority of people are going to be using Microsoft at home as well.

  2. Why visitors still use to read news papers when in this technological globe the whole thing is presented on the net?