Europe ready to charge Microsoft over browser choice, eyes Google action

Europe ready to charge Microsoft over browser choice, eyes Google action

Summary: Europe's competition chief has said the European Commission is preparing to charge Microsoft over its failure to offer some Windows 7 users a choice of browser, and may begin formal antitrust proceedings against Google too.

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TOPICS: EU, Google, Legal, Microsoft
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The European Commission has reiterated plans to turn the thumbscrews on both Microsoft and Google over antitrust concerns.

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European antitrust commissioner Joaquín Almunia said in a speech on Thursday in Warsaw that both "world brands" were in the Commission's sights – Microsoft over its failure to properly offer users a choice of browser, Google over its fears it "had used its dominance in online search to foreclose advertisers and rivals".

"When it comes to implementing competition law, a good authority must be blind to where the headquarters of a firm are located or how much influence it has on world markets. This is crucial if we are serious about protecting the interests of all European citizens, and I imagine it is also quite reassuring for investors to know that we treat all companies alike.

"In the past, we have taken on companies such as Microsoft. To meet one of our concerns, the company pledged to let consumers choose which web browser they would use with its Windows operating system. By its own admission, Microsoft has failed to keep its promise. I take compliance very seriously and we are now considering the next steps," Alumnia said.

Microsoft began giving users purchasing new Windows machines a choice of which browser to use back in 2010 following an earlier settlement with the Commission. However, earlier this year, it admitted that a significant number of Windows 7 SP1 users hadn't been given the option to select a browser other than IE.

Charges

Alumnia told Reuters that the Commission is now preparing to charge Microsoft. "It should not be a long investigation because the company itself explicitly recognised its breach of the agreement," he told the news agency.

If found guilty, the Commission could fine Microsoft up to 10 percent of its annual turnover – a matter of several billion euros.

The Commission is also considering formal proceeding against Google.

"Two years ago we have also opened an investigation against Google – another world brand – on concerns that it had used its dominance in online search to foreclose advertisers and rivals.

"We are discussing with the company to see whether we can solve this case with effective commitments in the interest of users. Otherwise, we will need to pursue formal proceedings," Alumnia said.

The European Commission launched an antitrust investigation in 2010 against the company over allegations that the search giant ranked its own services above those of competitors in its results pages.

Topics: EU, Google, Legal, Microsoft

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65 comments
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  • Can we charge . . .

    . . . Europe with stupidity?
    FDanconia
    • No

      But we can certainly charge all the ignorant apologists here.

      A breach of an agreement is a breach of an agreement. It is about past actions, not about current conditions. Just pause for a moment and think a little bit before you blatantly expose yourself.
      D.T.Long
      • Does it include stupid EU apologists

        Are Europeans all morons that don't know how to install a free alternative browser?
        LBiege
        • I guess ...

          rational thought and logic is not one of your strengths?
          D.T.Long
          • And the rational behind the browser selection is?

            A company cannot compete on merits like Google or Mozilla does to get its browser popular enough decides to sue the winner so that they have to put the loser's browser on screen for selection.

            That's how Europeans define competition?
            LBiege
          • I doubt you are open minded enough to benefit.

            But here is some preliminary reading for you. Of note is the fact that the browser case started with a conviction in a US, and not a European court.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_Microsoft_competition_case#Related_investigations

            You, and many others here, could benefit from some reading on this issue.
            D.T.Long
          • Try a dose of common sense

            1. Competition has winners and losers.
            2. Letting business winners win give them incentive to keep performing so that everyone can benefit from their products.
            3. Punishing winners to help losers stay in the game gives winner less motive to excel and losers more excuse to cheat.
            4. Such kinda "competition law" executed by EU is anti-competition indeed.
            LBiege
          • You just confirmed my suspicion

            Common sense is unfortunately often an oxymoron, and in particular when there is no underlying understanding of the facts and the issues.

            Thanks for playing
            D.T.Long
          • I thought you were ready to reason

            So I listed four simple principles. I didn't know they were that hard for your comprehend.
            LBiege
          • I know I am wasting my time on you, but

            there may be others here who are a little more intellectually curious:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Oil

            If you mean to argue that the vast majority of politicians and US courts (and economists I might add) over the past 100+ years have no clue, then that is your prerogative.

            This is my last post on this issue.
            D.T.Long
          • @D.T.Long

            So long ....
            Ram U
          • Yes, I am arguing that

            The truth is not a popularity contest, D. T., and there is quite a bit of reading you might do that argues against antitrust laws. The best modern choice is by an author with the same first two initials as you - Dominick T. Armentano's "Antitrust: The case for repeal". Alan Greenspan wrote an essay on the topic in Ayn Rand's "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal". As I explained before, but you seem to think you already know everything and didn't pay attention, the anti-trust laws are vague, arbitrary and effectively ex post facto (which means you can't know at the time you take an action that you are violating them), which is supposed to mean, in a society of objective laws, that they are invalid. The state of economics is so bad that the opinions of economists on this issue cannot be given any weight.

            Also, my "stupidity" comment was as much about Google as Microsoft. Anyone who thinks antitrust actions against Google are appropriate is a moron.

            In the Microsoft case, this is just a bunch of power-lusters trying to exert arbitrary power over a company because they can, in order to extract wealth from an entity that actually produces wealth, which nobody on the European Commission would be capable of if their life depended on it.
            FDanconia
          • The lunatic fringe and the "truth"

            OK. One last kick at the can.

            Permitting an entity to extract monopoly rents beyond a reasonable period to allow rewards for risk taking, does NOT create wealth. It merely transfers wealth from one group to another. Wealth is created by improved productivity, which monopolies have no further incentives to pursue. Most of their activities will be spent protecting their established position.

            Over time, your advocated solution would concentrate the available wealth in fewer and fewer hands, corruption would flourish and revolution and civil war would eventually ensue. That is the ultimate "survival of the fittest" society you seem to advocate, except the "fittest" would ultimately be killed, and the process would begin all over again until sanity somehow prevailed.

            Instead of reading fringe writings, perhaps you should study some human history and psychology. It might do you some good.
            D.T.Long
          • You are:

            as bad at leaving as you are at reasoning???? I was relishing your exit!!!!
            eargasm
          • Right on with your last post!

            For your digestion only, intellectual and Wikipedia, does not belong in the same sentence, as they are in different realms!!!!
            eargasm
          • So the ends justify the means?

            So Apple could hire people to set fires in the Indian Foxconn slave factories the build Nokia Lumia phones? After all Apple would Win, and Nokia would lose again.
            Microsoft was found to be leveraging one Monopoly to create another monopoly. Microsoft is trying to gain control over the internet, but forcing everyone to use IE. WP 8 desktop edition will make that evident. IE will run in "desktop" mode, while other browsers will be limited to "Metro" mode
            Troll Hunter J
          • Wow that was really wrong. MS is not trying to control the internet.

            From the beginning IE has followed W3C protocols and heavily participated in the W3C standards bodies. What company makes the most html and css standards compliant browser? Yes thats right MS, not google, not apple, not opera. And any company that wants to make a browser for the W8 desktop (there is no WP8 desktop) can do so to it's hearts content, host it for download on its own webiste, make it free or paid, and can even list it in the MS app store if it wants to. WindowsRT on the otherhand is targeted at a market where MS has near 0% marketshare, where the desktop has no backwards compatibility with any Windows existing W32 apps, including Microsofts, and where MS anticipates WindowsRT customers will spend near 0 % of their browsing time. Where theyll spend nearly 100% of their browsing time again, any browser vendor can offer a competing browser.
            Johnny Vegas
          • Youve got it backwards, or completely off...

            I am running Win8 RTM Pro at home and Ent at work. I have Firefox installed on my desktop and it works just fine.

            I don't believe there is a Metro version of FF, but I could be wrong.

            Either way, my alternate browser works swimmingly.
            omdguy
          • NO!

            One case has nothing to do with the other. You, sir, could benefit with some sane reasoning. Try it; you may like it!!!!
            eargasm
          • The ballot screen was Microsoft's Idea

            Rather than remove IE, and allow the OEMs to choose their own browser. Microsoft not only signed the agreement, but this "punishment" was their own choice. Within 6 months Microsoft decided they longer wanted to honor their agreement, so a "Service Pack" killed, the ballot screen. If I wee a home contractor that you were paying $40,000 to build an addition, and once I got the payment (up front), I refused to honor my end of the contract, would you also find it okay? Basically Microsoft has just said they do not honor their contracts
            Troll Hunter J