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

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.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

The European Commission has reiterated plans to turn the thumbscrews on both Microsoft and Google over antitrust concerns.


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.


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.

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