Microsoft's Euro-fines Keep On Mounting

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft's feud with the European Union became even more bitter today when regulators hit the firm with another $1.2 billion in fines.

This time the penalty was for breaching a 2004 ruling that banned the firm from charging "unreasonable" prices for rivals to access software information they needed to produce Windows-compatible programs. Microsoft had been charging 3.87% royalties for all licensed Windows products, and an extra 2.98% to provide the necessary information. Microsoft have now reduced these rates in Europe but maintains them elsewhere.

"Microsoft is the first company in 50 years of EU competition policy that the Commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an antitrust decision", said EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. She was sceptical about the company's claims that their anti-competitive days were behind them, saying "Talk is cheap. Flouting the rules is expensive." (Source:

The fine won't come as a shock to Microsoft. It had been challenging the 2004 ruling right up until last year when it lost a court case on the issue. This week's fine covers the period from June 2006 to October 2007; Microsoft has already been fined for ignoring the rules before this time.

Legal experts said the new fine was evidence that the EU wanted to make it clear its rulings had to be respected. "The Commission has stuck to its guns and, slowly but surely, completed its procedures to be able today to impose further, potentially very significant, penalties -- and, in theory, the story does not end there. Microsoft is under a continuing duty to comply," chimed an analyst. (Source:

To date, the EU has fined Microsoft a total of $2.4 billion for various competition offenses, equivalent to 5% of the company's annual income.

Though Microsoft has just announced plans to make its software secrets more available, the EU aren't off their case just yet. They are still investigating claims that the company unfairly promotes Internet Explorer by including it free of charge with all copies of Windows.

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