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Euro watchdog to charge Microsoft on web browser choice boob

Fines of up to $7bn loom for breaking promise

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Microsoft will be slapped with "a formal proceeding into the company's breach of an agreement", the European Commission's competition chief Joaquin Almunia confirmed today.

He apparently told reporters that the process was likely to be dealt with swiftly "because the company itself explicitly recognised its breach of the agreement".

Microsoft admitted in July that it had violated a deal with Brussels' antitrust officials. For 17 months it failed to comply with a legally binding 2009 settlement in which Redmond was supposed to display a choice screen to its European Windows customers – allowing them to pick between its own Internet Explorer and rival browsers Firefox, Chrome and others on the market – until 2014.

Almunia - who was speaking at a conference in Warsaw, Poland, this morning - told the audience about the challenges his office faced when it comes to investigating global outfits such as MS and Google, which is also currently being probed over competition concerns by the commission.

He said:

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.

Microsoft could be hit with fines of up to $7bn, which is roughly 10 per cent of the software giant's global turnover. ®

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