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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 @09:53AM (#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 Dyinobal (1427207) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @09:57AM (#43091845)
    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 BasilBrush (643681) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:04AM (#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 jareth-0205 (525594) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:12AM (#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.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:12AM (#43091985) Homepage

    No, Google bundles the OS with the browser...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:24AM (#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.
  • Re:Google OS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jareth-0205 (525594) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:31AM (#43092181) Homepage

    One could argue that since Microsoft Windows is now on the slide, and WebKit based browsers are now the market leader, that the anti-monopoly action against Microsoft is no longer necessary. However that is for a court to decide. Not for Microsoft to simply disregard their obligation.

    *Plus*, just because a remedy is no longer necessary does not mean it shouldn't still happen. That's the nature of punishments.

    "Oh, Mr Murderer, you're not currently killing anyone? Well then be on your way, you little scamp!"

  • Re:Meanwhile... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:37AM (#43092237)

    Stupid

    Yes, you are, and so is every other person who's already posted the same thing as you.

    Microsoft were referred to the EU Competition Commission due to a complain by Opera. They were found to hold a monopoly on desktop Operating Systems. They were found to be using this monopoly to illegally extend their monopoly into another market, namely web browsers. The original action (being forced to provide Browser Choice) was intended to address their illegal action. Microsoft subsequently ignored this, for 14 months, all the time claiming that they were in compliance. This fine is a result of their actions in ignoring a previous agreement with the EU.

    You can stamp your feet and whine all you like, but that's the law and those are the facts.

    Apple are not expected to comply with the same rules before they have not been referred to the EU Competition Commission and thus legally there is no monopoly status, and therefore can not be using that monopoly to extend their market in other areas.

    If you believe that Apple are a monopoly and that they are harming consumers through their actions relating to that monopoly, please feel free to complain to the EU Competition Commission.

  • Re:Google OS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:42AM (#43092289) Journal

    not necessary now doesn't mean that it didn't happen, of which they were found guilty. The fact that even after they were found guilty they continued to let it happen and denied it, is why they are now seeking this to be a deterrent.

    If you think MS is not doing anything anti-monopoly, I'd like to remind you of the UEFI BIOS issue.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:45AM (#43092321)

    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 profits took a 17% hit) and no one goes to jail.

  • Re:It's worse (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:46AM (#43092329)

    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. Then you need never think about Internet Explorer again. Boo hoo.

    When is Europe -- or the FTC -- going after Apple for creating a private, you-can't-work-around-it-without-modifying-your-system-software store for their devices?

  • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:49AM (#43092369) Journal

    I don't know a *lot* of Mac users, but most of the ones I know seem to stick to Safari, A couple use FireFox.

    I'm not so bothered by the Desktop market. I'm more wondering - how can the App store model of Apple have a leg to stand on in the same court system that would allow this?

    Note: I didn't add Google or MS mobile devices, because in the cases I've used them, there's always been at least 2 app stores on the phone/tablet, though that may have changed with Windows 8...

  • by craigminah (1885846) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:50AM (#43092373)
    I'd love to see Microsoft and others just stop selling their products to countries who seem to want to milk them for as much money as they can. The uprising form the citizens may motivate some common sense. Doubtful though...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:55AM (#43092437)

    No, they have hopefully found a way to get big companies to listen to their rulings. Small fines won't affect companies like microsoft. 1billion fine might get the next company to think twice before trying to abuse a monopoly.

  • by cyber-vandal (148830) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:01AM (#43092509) Homepage

    IE6 lock-in is still causing harm now, over a decade after it was first inflicted on us.

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

  • Re:Meanwhile... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grench (833454) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:23AM (#43092751) Homepage Journal

    Most Linux dists with Firefox and I suppose Android may have a standard browser to.

    Microsoft were abusing their position to ensure other browsers couldn't be bundled as part of the OEM software builds distributed with new PCs. PC makers were literally not permitted to add any other browsers. See this US Dept. of Justice link, section V.C.2 for a summary [justice.gov]. This was Microsoft's strategy for winning the browser wars against Netscape Navigator, and was the reason Netscape died out.

    Then they integrated their Internet Explorer browser into the operating system so deeply that you can't actually uninstall it. Internet Explorer is present on EVERY copy of Windows released, whether the user wants to actually use it or not.

    This is different from Linux distros distributing Firefox as part of their bundle for a number of reasons - chief of which is that Firefox isn't made by the Linux Foundation, it's a Mozilla product. Secondly, it's been a while since I installed Ubuntu, but I'm pretty certain when I did, the installer asked me which browser(s) I wanted (amongst other software) - it's not like Firefox was just given to me, I could have picked Chrome if I'd wanted to use it.

    The reason Microsoft are being targeted here is that this is an anti-trust fine. Microsoft are recognized as the leader in the consumer and enterprise desktop/laptop PC OS markets - there are more Windows installs than there are Linux or Mac installs. By bundling their own browser and not giving users the option during installation NOT to install IE (let alone giving them the option to install something else), they could be viewed as using their dominance in the desktop OS market as a tool to gain dominance in the web browser market. Remember that a lot of consumers will also just go with whatever is installed, either through ignorance (they don't know how good other browsers are, and IE just works, right?) or through not feeling confident / tech savvy enough to install a different browser. You have to go download files and run installers and make choices - that sort of thing scares people, which is why the App Store model is so popular - you just click "install" and it goes and does it all for you. Putting the choice of browser in the installation wizard for the OS or in the "first-time user login" wizard when you first start up your brand new PC should even the playing field, giving users an easy way of picking what browser they want to use. Granted, most will continue using IE because that's what they've been used to in the past, or because of the Microsoft branding on it - but that's their choice.

    Having the Chrome browser bundled with Android is pretty much the same as Microsoft including IE with Windows and Apple including Safari with MacOS and iOS - yes there are other browsers available, but they don't give you the choice what you want. There is no reason why the European Commissioner for Competition can't go and levy the same sorts of fines against Google and Apple for the same reasons (maybe they haven't received complaints about this practice by these companies?). It's just been Microsoft's turn this time, and the fine they're being hit with is because of their failure to comply with an earlier ruling - they were told previously to give users a choice, and this demand has basically been ignored.

    OH THE HUMANITY! THE HORRORS! I HAVE TO CHANGE BROWSER MYSELF?!

    You don't have to change it at all if you don't want to. The point is, it's about having the choice. You may have the technical know-how to do this, but a lot of people won't, so Microsoft win the browser wars by default.

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:26AM (#43092791)

    IE6 lock-in is still causing harm now, over a decade after it was first inflicted on us.

    Surely the majority of the blame for that should go to companies like Netscape for not providing a decent alternative for such a long time. The beginning of the fall of Internet Explorer came with the release of Firefox.

    Of course, you could say that Opera was around during that period, but even today when more and more people find alternatives to the bundled browser nobody hardly anybody chooses Opera.

  • Democracy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by microbox (704317) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:30AM (#43092831)
    The fine is a deterrent, and a sign that in Europe, the government is more powerful than business interests. Guess all those years of fascism left a mark. Score 1-0 for democracy and rule of law.
  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:52AM (#43093077) Homepage Journal

    Uhhhh - the AGREEMENT that Microsoft entered into resulted FROM monopoly hearings. The charge here is that Microsoft VIOLATED that AGREEMENT. Whether Microsoft remains a monopoly or not, whether Microsoft blocks other browsers or not, has nothing to do with the fine.

    Try this - get hauled into court for some rather minor charge. Marijuana possession would work. Plead with the judge to not jail your ass. Agree to any demand that he makes, so long as he doesn't send you to jail.

    Then, after you've left the court room, fail to live up to the agreement that you made with that judge.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:59AM (#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 ConfusedVorlon (657247) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:17PM (#43093511) Homepage

    re steep.

    this can only happen if
    1) you lose a gazillion battles and get fined
    2) you agree to do a bunch of stuff as part of your settlement
    3) you don't do it (in a significant way)
    4) it gets noticed

    You have to work pretty hard to get down to #4. The EU wants companies to take #2 extremely seriously.

    MS fought tooth and nail to avoid the fines in #1. The EU commission wants to make 100% sure that if they fight a battle all the way through, and win it -then the company doesn't think they can just ignore the result and get a slap on the wrist.

    This makes a pretty clear statement. "When you agree to do stuff - you'd better do it. It might even be worth paying someone on your staff (perhaps in the audit/compliance dept) to do a check once a month to make sure you are keeping your promises."

  • by bussdriver (620565) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @01:15PM (#43094417)

    Microsoft was convicted and lost the appeal. If you were on parole and violated it they would nail you even if it was an accident!
    It isn't fair when a human on parole forgets some legal detail and is nailed. That's 1 person who is not a lawyer trying to continue living their life. Microsoft is a large number of people with their own law firms who are paid to deal with such things. ZERO EXCUSES for almost any human (except the politically connected) and they can have reasonable excuses; Microsoft doesn't.

    Just because they are a corporation (that is, a person in the USA) doesn't mean they should get special treatment.
    The fact the EU can even fine them a decent amount shows they can't just bribe their way out of the legal system; like in the USA... Weak punishments just become part of doing business, nothing changes - the whole purpose is to force compliance!

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