EU Hits Microsoft With More Fines

The European Union has fined Microsoft US$357 million as a penalty for failing to share certain Windows code with competitors. The requirement is part of an antitrust order issued in 2004. According to The Wall Street Journal, EU officials are threatening Microsoft with additional ?3 million (about $3.82 million) a day fines starting July 31.

EU officials say they were compelled to impose the fines because Microsoft has failed to provide complete and accurate information to developers so that they can write applications that operate smoothly with Windows. The requirement was imposed in response to complaints that Microsoft was abusing its monopoly status to force competitors out of the marketplace.

Neelie Kroes, the EU Competition Commissioner, noted that Microsoft was ordered to share the information over two years ago. "Microsoft has still not put an end to its illegal conduct. I have no alternative but to levy penalty payments for this continued compliance. No company is above the law."

Microsoftis General Counsel, Brad Smith, says the company plans a court appeal to fight the fines. "We do not believe any fine, let alone a fine of this magnitude, is appropriate given the lack of clarity in the commissionis original decision and our good-faith efforts over the past two years."

A substantial percentage of the documentation that Microsoft has submitted so far, EU officials claim, is of little or no value. But Microsoft says that until recently, the EU has been changing its expectations, making it impossible to comply with the requirements.

The independent monitor assigned to evaluate the revision of the 70 documents Microsoft has so far submitted said that in June, only one was suitable. After ramping up efforts, however, now half of them meet expectations.

"I sincerely hope that the latest technical documentation being delivered by Microsoft will bring them into compliance and that further penalty payments will not prove necessary," Ms. Kroes said.

She also wonders why Microsoft didnit put forth this effort two years ago. "Why wait that long?"