Microsoft apologizes for violating EU antitrust order
SEATTLE – The $731 million fine European regulators slapped on Microsoft Wednesday for failing to abide by an antitrust sanction reinforces the European Union’s longstanding insistence on fair competition.
What’s more, the huge penalty also signaled that Europe won’t easily be swayed by Google and Facebook to back down from expanding online privacy rights for individuals, a policy that the U.S. tech and media companies contend would crimp the global growth of online advertising.
“This puts a spotlight on how important it is for global companies to take into account the laws and customs of the places they do business,” says Charles King, principal analyst at tech industry research firm Pund-IT. “If they can’t do that, they’re almost begging for the sort of spankings the EU has administered to Microsoft.”
Citing a technical error, Microsoft took full responsibility for failing to give European consumers a choice of Web browsers in shipping some 15 million copies of the Windows 7 operating system. The company had agreed to do that as part of a 2009 sanction closing out a protracted antitrust investigation conducted by the EU’s competition commission.
That antitrust case began in 2004, and Microsoft paid fines of $357 million in 2006 and $1.3 billion in 2008 for being slow to comply with regulations.
The company’s board last year reduced CEO Steve Ballmer’s bonus in anticipation of some sort of embarrassing sanction. “Microsoft cut a deal with the EU and failed to live up to it,” says Randal Picker, law professor at the University of Chicago. “That will get you in trouble in the EU or the U.S.”
The company didn’t say whether it would challenge this latest fine, but it is not expected to do so. “We have apologized for it,” Microsoft said in a statement. “We have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake — or anything similar — in the future.” Read More