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Euro watchdog bares teeth at Microsoft over browser gaffe

Redmond could feel bite of a painful fine next month - report

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Antitrust watchdogs in Europe could soon slap Microsoft with a massive fine for the software maker's browser-choice gaffe last year.

The company was caught steering its Windows operating system users into loading up Microsoft's Internet Explorer even though Redmond had previously agreed - in an earlier regulatory ruling - to play fair by offering rival browser options to its customers.

According to Reuters, which cited three people whispering to the news wire, the European Commission hopes to issue a fine to MS before the Easter break.

It's also likely to be a mahoosive penalty given Microsoft's poor anti-competitive form.

The company is being investigated over its supposedly erroneous banishment of the "browser choice" screen, which would have required European customers to pick which surfing tool they wanted to run on their Windows-based machines.

A service pack update to Windows 7 omitted the feature, which had been installed as part of a previous Euro competition agreement.

Microsoft claimed it failed to spot that it was no longer including the browser choice screen for 17 months: the vendor has described the apparent mishap as a "technical error" rather than a deliberate action to push Internet Explorer.

The issue is only really relevant in the case of very non-savvy or terminally lazy users, as it is trivially simple to install alternative browsers with or without the EU choice dialogue.

Microsoft was fined €1.68m by the commission in 2009 as part of the competition probe which saw it agree to install the choice tool on machines for sale in Europe. The legally binding agreement remains in force until 2014. IE, meanwhile, ain't the dominant browser anymore. ®

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