EU: Internet Explorer Violates Antitrust Laws

Microsoft has run afoul of the European Commission again over claims that its Internet Explorer Web browser violates antitrust laws. The Commission's Directorate General for Competition issued the Redmond-based company a statement of objections that asserts competing Web browsers are unfairly blocked from competing because the Windows operating system includes Internet Explorer.

The statement of objections followed a one year investigation that was sparked by a complaint from rival Web browser developer Opera.

The Commission said in a statement "The evidence gathered during the investigation leads the Commission to believe that the tying of Internet Explorer with Windows, which makes Internet Explorer available on 90 percent of the world's PCs, distorts competition on the merits between competing Web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other Web browsers are unable to match. The Commission is concerned that through the tying, Microsoft shields Internet Explorer from head to head competition with other browsers which is detrimental to the pace of product innovation and to the quality of products which consumers ultimately obtain."

Internet Explorer's ubiquitous status may also be creating "artificial incentives" for companies to design products and Web sites specifically for Microsoft's Web browser at the expense of competition and consumer choice, according to the commission.

Microsoft has two months to reply to the statement of objections and can also request a hearing. The Commission will not make a final ruling until after the window for Microsoft's reply has expired.