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Microsoft Fined €561 Million For Non-compliance With EU Browser Settlement 401

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the five-minutes-of-revenue dept.
Seeteufel writes "Microsoft's failure to comply with an antitrust settlement about browser choice has severe consequences. The European Commissioner for Competition Almunia set a fine of €561 million (~$732 million) for the unprecedented break of agreement. Microsoft admitted its mistakes and offered further concessions." A pretty costly bug it seems. From the EC press release: "This is the first time that the Commission has had to fine a company for non-compliance with a commitments decision. In the calculation of the fine the Commission took into account the gravity and duration of the infringement, the need to ensure a deterrent effect of the fine and, as a mitigating circumstance, the fact that Microsoft has cooperated with the Commission and provided information which helped the Commission to investigate the matter efficiently."
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Microsoft Fined €561 Million For Non-compliance With EU Browser Settlement

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:53AM (#43091829)

    I can't believe that a company in 2013 would have the audacity to think it can still get away with bundling its own browser with its OS! You'd never see this sort of behavior out of more responsible corporations like Apple.

    • by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdotNO@SPAMjawtheshark.com> on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:22AM (#43092093) Homepage Journal

      You'd never see this sort of behavior out of more responsible corporations like Apple.

      Look up Apples two year warranty obligations under EU law. They really, really, really don't like it and make the customer believe it's only one year.

      • by gnasher719 (869701) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:46AM (#43093973)

        Look up Apples two year warranty obligations under EU law. They really, really, really don't like it and make the customer believe it's only one year.

        That's because Apple has no warranty obligations under EU law for the devices it produces. It has obligations for devices that it sells to consumers, and that would include cameras, hard drives, cables etc. that you buy from Apple that are not made by Apple. Whoever sells you a product made by anyone, including Apple, has obligations towards you.

        Let me repeat that: The manufacturer has no obligations. The shop selling to the consumer has.

    • The browsers are not just bundled but Apple doesn't even allow other browser engines like Firefox's Gecko to run on the iDevices. The maximum you can do as a browser maker is to put a different skin on top of the Safari renderer. Chromebooks don't even allow browsers.
      That means there won't even be a Netscape equivalent to complain about bundling because alternate browsers are just plain banned. Software freedom and choice is more dead in the post-PC world than it was in the PC world.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Shavano (2541114)

        Bingo. You can only buy apps THEY approve through THEIR store and effectively they won't allow third-party apps on their device at all without they get a cut.

        It's WAY more anticompetitive than anything Microsoft has done recently. These days, Microsoft seems like the good guys. So what if competitor browsers don't come preconfigured? It takes a couple of minutes to download and install Firefox of Chrome or Safari or whatever other browser you want and set it up as the default browser on your system. T

      • Chromebooks don't even allow browsers.

        ChromeOS doesn't allow ANY SOFTWARE to begin with.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:24AM (#43092127)
      Once Apple or Google or anyone you care to mention have been convicted of abusing a monopoly position, you may have a point.

      If you believe that Apple or Google or any other company are a monopoly and are abusing their position, and you feel that you have been harmed by this, feel free to file a complaint with the European Competition Commission.
    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      I can't believe that a company in 2013 would have the audacity to think it can still get away with bundling its own browser with its OS! You'd never see this sort of behavior out of more responsible corporations like Apple.

      Getting away with it makes you arrogant. You're forgetting over a decade ago in the US there was talk of breaking up Microsoft and they got a stiff fine. In the end the court largely threw in the towel. They had a stranglehold on PCs and personal computers in general. Microsoft crumbled from within not due to any court action and Apple finally started gaining a share of the personal computer market.

    • by Fri13 (963421)

      Apple developes and sell its own software system preinstalled in own computer system so they can do what ever they want.
      Microsoft developes own software system and sell it to OEM what builds own computer system so Microsoft has applied different rules as OEM is dependant of Microsoft.
      Microsoft is allowed to do what ever it wants with Surface as same rules apply to it as for Apple.

  • by Dyinobal (1427207)
    Mean while in america we fine 1.92 billion HSBC for laundering money for terrorists and drug lords. Apparently laundering money for terrorists and drug lords is only 2.5 (roughly) times as bad as not complying with an EU court settlement.
    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:00AM (#43091883) Homepage Journal

      Has a fine like this *ever* been paid in the U.S. though in actuality?

      It either gets fed to the appeals system which reduces it or ties the payment up for so long it's meaningless or it gets ignored and forgotten.

      I can't remember one example of a company just paying the fine and moving on, actually. Does someone else here remember anything like this?

    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:04AM (#43091923)

      Who ever said fines were supposed to be proportional to perceived severity of crime? Especially across different judicial systems.

      Fines need to take account of ability to pay. And they also need to be designed to be of a size that will stop reoffending. GIven that Microsoft have reoffended, that's a good indication that the original fine wasn't big enough.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:19AM (#43092059) Homepage

      Mean while in america we fine 1.92 billion HSBC for laundering money for terrorists and drug lords. Apparently laundering money for terrorists and drug lords is only 2.5 (roughly) times as bad as not complying with an EU court settlement.

      Neither is as bad as sharing a song over bittorrent.

    • by jopsen (885607)

      Mean while in america we fine 1.92 billion HSBC for laundering money for terrorists and drug lords

      I'm not particularly familiar with the case, but quite skeptical about US financial sanctions... The US isn't world police... and HSBC is an international bank with obligations to help their customers as best they can. That includes guiding money around US financial sanctions.

      For crying out load, the US still has sanctions against Cuba. I'm not saying Cuba is the finest country on the surface of the planet. But they're hardly a threat to anybody.

      I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and I'm sure HSBC did some

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nedlohs (1335013)

      In America while laundering money for terrorists is considered a bad thing and a serious matter, that is being counterbalanced by the fact that it was a bank and bank's are not allowed to be seriously harmed - doing so would be more evil than funding those terrorists.

      What would happen to you if you were caught handling $200 trillion of drug money? All you assets seized by the government and you spending the rest of your life in prison seems a likely outcome. When a bank does it? A fine (oh noes, their profi

    • by gtall (79522)

      Hear, hear!!! The Universe just isn't fair. Who do we talk to about this?

  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @08:58AM (#43091869)

    Even as a Microsoft hater of old, I'm beginning to feel sorry for MS. For sure, 15 years ago they were engaged in monopoly abuse to advantage IE. But these days, IE itself is on the way out. WebKit based browsers are the clear majority these days. And neither Apple nor Google have to offer users of their systems a choice of browser.

    It must really rub salt in the wound to have a statutory obligation to offer alternatives to their minority browser.

    • It was a ridiculous suit in the first place. Every OS bundles core applications - including now web browsers. People never had an issue switching off of IE even with it installed by default and the decline in usage of IE had nothing to do with the anti-trust settlements.

      All of this was a huge waste of time. There are far better targets out there to attack (like oil, banking, etc.) but they have better lobbyists.

      • by 1u3hr (530656)

        People never had an issue switching off of IE

        After Windows 95, it is basically impossible to "switch off". No matter what default browser you chose, IE was likely to pop up. And doing so it opened big security holes.

        • That uncertainty wasn't exactly Microsoft's fault. Developers were just retarded about how they would launch their own links. Many of them hardcoded launching IE because they were certain it was on the machine, rather than using any mechanism to launch a preferred browser.

          Even today we still see this behavior and it's not always small developers who do it, which is shameful.

          • by 1u3hr (530656)

            Many of them hardcoded launching IE because they were certain it was on the machine, rather than using any mechanism to launch a preferred browser.

            Developers did it because MS encouraged them to. Thus reinforcing the lock in which is what the whole point of the EU complaint. Even if you went to a great deal of trouble to extirpate IE from your PC, you'd install some program and it would auomatically reinstall the fucking thing to take you to their fucking website or show you a help page. Or it would fail to install at all if you didn't let it.

            • Many of them hardcoded launching IE because they were certain it was on the machine, rather than using any mechanism to launch a preferred browser.

              Developers did it because MS encouraged them to. Thus reinforcing the lock in which is what the whole point of the EU complaint. Even if you went to a great deal of trouble to extirpate IE from your PC, you'd install some program and it would auomatically reinstall the fucking thing to take you to their fucking website or show you a help page. Or it would fail to install at all if you didn't let it.

              The "integration" of IE/Trident in modern versions of Windows is exactly the same as the "integration" of Safari/Webkit on OS X. The rendering engine is a system control that the system and 3rd party apps depend on being there, and thus can't be "fully removed" (people making fun of this display technical ignorance). The browser front-end can though (and is then not used by the system), and you can install another browser that uses its' own rendering engine for web, but the built-in OS render control will s

        • Most of the security holes we've seen in the last several years, though, have been based on plugins and really don't depend on a particular browser.

          I also have never seen IE pop up on my machine.

    • by jareth-0205 (525594) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:12AM (#43091983) Homepage

      Even as a Microsoft hater of old, I'm beginning to feel sorry for MS. For sure, 15 years ago they were engaged in monopoly abuse to advantage IE. But these days, IE itself is on the way out. WebKit based browsers are the clear majority these days. And neither Apple nor Google have to offer users of their systems a choice of browser.

      It must really rub salt in the wound to have a statutory obligation to offer alternatives to their minority browser.

      Well, perhaps, but isn't that the point of a punishment? To punish? Punishments can never happen at the same time as the offence, so they have to happen after! MS have got off pretty lightly really, considering the damage they managed to do in the past.

  • a bug? (Score:4, Funny)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:02AM (#43091909) Journal
    There is virtually ZERO chance/probability that this was a Microsoft bug.
    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      There is virtually ZERO chance/probability that this was a Microsoft bug.

      Really? Given that the browser box was added to Windows 7 RTM, and then wasn't there in SP1, you don't think that the issue would have been that somebody checked it into the RTM branch, but then didn't know they were responsible for merging it into the SP1 branch? Different teams will have different merging policies, and given how one off the browser box is/was, I suspect it may not have been done by a main Windows developer.

      • by coolmadsi (823103)

        Different teams will have different merging policies, and given how one off the browser box is/was, I suspect it may not have been done by a main Windows developer.

        I don't think it was supposed to be much of a "one off":

        Microsoft initially argued that the move benefited users, but after the European Commission issued a preliminary report suggesting the firm had abused its position, the company agreed to offer a choice of browser until at least 2014 to avoid risking a fine.

        However, this option was missing from its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 released in 2011 and it continued to be absent for 14 months.

        During that time, Microsoft reported it was still complying with the ag

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      There is virtually ZERO chance/probability that this was a Microsoft bug.

      Virtually zero? Is that like virtually spotless?

      There is every possibility that this was a bug. But not testing to make sure that the bug didn't affect their contractual and legal obligations wasn't a bug.

  • by TechieRefugee (2105386) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:03AM (#43091921)
    It sure is a *fine* story!
  • not sure who they will fine next month.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:34AM (#43092213)

    what about the windows RT lock down and the win 8 app store how will that go under EU rules?

  • the gravity and duration of the infringement

    Given that the choice to use multiple free pieces of software is such a grave situation I'd expect the fine to be 0.

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:11AM (#43092617) Homepage

    Microsoft is no longer the monopoly it once was. Furthermore, Apple is doing far more egrarious violations. What about the fact that Apple refused to convert to microUSB with the new iPhone 5. Where is there fine.

    At least Microsoft lets me install an alternative browser (crApple, did their darndest to prevent even that)

    • Microsoft is no longer the monopoly it once was.

      Eh, that's not true. Microsoft has always underpinned its racket with secret contracts with OEMs. That is as true today as it ever was. And Microsoft is just as evil as it ever was, the only difference is, the forces arrayed against it have grown stronger.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:59AM (#43093197)

    They tested whether they could get away with it and arranged some (fairly transparent) level of deniability. It is really simple: This feature was on the "must work" list for all releases. Such items cannot simply be overlooked unless you are really, really, really incompetent. Not even MS manages to reach this level and certainly not for that long.

    Well, now they know that they cannot get away with more of this immoral and economically damaging (to all but them) business practice. I also think the EU put the fine on the low end, even given their "cooperation".

  • by Skiron (735617) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:39AM (#43093857) Homepage

    ... reading the posts here is that Microsoft went out of their way to make sure IE in any form was integral to the operation of Windows.

    So MS _deliberately_ made sure that other browser run worse than IE on a Windows system.

    Then, after the original court order, they couldn't really backtrack to what they insisted that 'IE cannot be removed' and offer a choice of browsers to use.

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