Brussels: The European Commission Wednesday imposed a 561-million-euro ($732.6-million) fine on Microsoft Corp. for failing to provide consumers a choice of web browsers on a version of Windows 7.
The European Union's executive arm said the US tech giant breached a commitment reached with European institutions to create a screen on its operating system offering users the option of several other web browsers apart from Microsoft Explorer.
That commitment was binding until 2014.
But Brussels found that Microsoft did not fulfill that obligation on its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 between May 2011 and July 2012 and therefore was remiss in offering 15 million users a clear choice of browser.
The commission said in a press release that in 2009 it closed an investigation into potential competition problems arising from the tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system, which dominates the PC market, after accepting Microsoft's legally binding commitment.
Anti-trust decisions such as these "require strict compliance. A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly", the commission's vice president in charge of competition policy, Joaquin Almunia, was quoted in the press release as saying.
The Redmond, Washington-based company accepted full responsibility for the breach, attributing the problem to a technical error that has since been corrected.
Microsoft faced a possible fine of up to 10 percent of its total annual revenue, which would have amounted to more than 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) based on figures from the previous financial year.
The EU fined Microsoft more than 1.7 billion euros in all in three separate enforcement actions between 2004 and 2008.
First Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013, 00:05