Competition / Antitrust Regulation

European Commission re-ignites the Browser Wars

15 Nov 2012

2 min read

In 2009, Microsoft made an agreement with the European Commission, in its capacity as the pan-European antitrust watchdog that it would offer the opportunity to users to choose which web browser to use on its Windows 7 operating system. The discussions that brought about this agreement were labelled as the “Browser Wars”.

The European Commission recently delved into the case once again to find out that the order has not yet been complied with. The order simply involved Microsoft Windows users a choice screen enabling them to easily select the web browser they prefer to use. While this screen was offered on iterations of Windows 7 before 2011, it was removed from versions using the “Windows 7 Service Pack 1” patch in February 2011.

The Commission has strongly advised that all companies live up to their commitments in order to resolve antitrust concerns. Failing to do so, the Commission ominously stated that they would “face the consequences”.

In response to all this, Microsoft has blamed this lapse on what they have termed “a technical error” while stating that they are taking the matter very seriously. They have subsequently promised to cooperate fully with the Commission to remedy the situation.

It must also be noted that the Commission’s announcement, as far as antitrust procedures in the European Union are concerned, is the first step in a process that could lead Microsoft to incur a fine of up to 10% of its global yearly turnover. Having received the charge sheet from the Commission detailing the infringement, Microsoft now has four weeks to respond in writing. Alternatively, it can request an oral hearing to outline its own arguments relating to the circumstances.

It should further be noted that Microsoft’s newest operating system “Windows 8” does not provide this screen solution either and only comes with Microsoft’s proprietary “Internet Explorer 10” pre-installed. Undoubtedly, this will not work to Microsoft’s favour during the submission of its arguments. Microsoft has sought to remedy this by releasing update KB976002 which offers users the browser choice required by the Commission.

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