Microsoft has received a 561 million euros (£484m) fine after failing to promote alternative web browsers to its own Internet Explorer within its operating system.
The software giant eventually offered a browser choice through a pop-up window in March 2010 as part of a settlement following an earlier EU anti-competition ruling.
But Microsoft reversed this feature in a Windows 7 update in February 2011 which they blamed on a ‘technical error’.
Joaquin Almunia, a competition commissioner for the EU, stated the action was unprecedented and added that he wanted to deter any other company from backtracking on such a promise.
The European watchdog could’ve fined the Seattle based company 10% of its annual revenue, which would have seen a $7.4bn fine levied based on its 2012 report.
“We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologised for it,” a spokesman for Microsoft told media.
“We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake – or anything similar – in the future.”
The ruling is being seen as a deterrent to others according to one lawyer.
“The European Commission is sending a firm signal in this first case of its type that it will not tolerate failure by a company to comply with the commitments it gave to settle an antitrust infringement procedure,” said Tony Woodgate from Simmons & Simmons.
Joaquin Almunia, added: “These ‘commitments decisions’ are currently the European Commission’s favoured mechanism to close abuse of dominance proceedings, saving enforcement resource and allowing for a speedy resolution.”
The case was brought to the attention of the EU Commission by Norwegian web browser developer Opera in 2007, who complained that Microsoft’s policy of bundling Internet Explorer with its operating system was stifling competition.