Microsoft Fined Another $1.35 Billion by EU

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The European Competition Commission of the European Union announced Wednesday that it had fined Microsoft another €899 million (US$1.35 billion) for failing to comply with a 2004 antitrust ruling. That ruling compelled Microsoft to allow its competitors access to the Windows platform, and the EU found that the company was overcharging competitors for patent licenses needed for that access.

The fines are on top of earlier fines stemming from the same antitrust case against Microsoft, with earlier fines adding up to some $1.17 billion. According to a Forbes report, todayis fines from Commissioner Neelie Kroes are a retroactive fine for non-compliance by Microsoft prior to October 22nd, 2007, and are not related to Big Redmondis announcement last week of a new kinder, gentler Microsoft that was embracing openness and interoperability.

"I hope that todayis decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoftis record of non-compliance," Ms. Kroes said in a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday morning. She added that she hoped the two parties could "just close this dark chapter of our relationship."

The EU has been diligent in investigating Microsoftis business practices in Europe, and in addition to this case from 2004, two new probes have been launched in recent months looking at other aspects of the companyis business practices.

In contrast, the U.S. punted on a huge antitrust win against Microsoft when the Bush administration took over the prosecution side of Microsoftis appeal of that ruling, which found the company guilty of being a predatory monopolist as it related to the Web browser market. With the for-profit Web browser market all but gone, the resulting settlement amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.

Todayis fine from the EU is the largest such fine leveled against any company in the history of the organization. While Microsoft can appeal the fine, Forbes reported that the company will likely pay it.

In her press conference, Ms. Kroes added, "Microsoft was the first company in fifty years of EU competition policy that the Commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an antitrust decision."

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