Antitrust: Commission opens proceedings against Microsoft to investigate possible non-compliance with browser choice commitments


The European Commission has opened proceedings against Microsoft in order to investigate whether the company has failed to comply with its 2009 commitments to offer users a choice screen enabling them to easily choose their preferred web browser.

On the basis of information it has received, the Commission believes that Microsoft may have failed to roll out the choice screen with Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011. This is despite the fact that, in December 2011, Microsoft indicated in its annual compliance report to the Commission that it was in compliance with its commitments. From February 2011 until today, millions of Windows users in the EU may have not seen the choice screen. Microsoft has recently acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period.

“We take compliance with our decisions very seriously. And I trusted the company’s reports were accurate. But it seems that was not the case, so we have immediately taken action. If following our investigation, the infringement is confirmed, Microsoft should expect sanctions”, said Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the Commission in charge of competition policy.

On 16 December 2009, the Commission made legally binding on Microsoft commitments offered by the US software company to address competition concerns the Commission had identified. These concerns related to the tying of Microsoft’s web browser, Internet Explorer, to its dominant client PC operating system, Windows.

Specifically, Microsoft committed to make available for five years (i.e. until 2014) in the European Economic Area a “Choice Screen” enabling users of Windows to choose in an informed and unbiased manner which web browser(s) they wanted to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft’s web browser. The choice screen was provided as of March 2010 to European Windows users who have Internet Explorer set as their default web browser.

The Commission will now investigate whether Microsoft has failed to comply with its commitments, in particular the commitment to provide a browser choice screen to Windows 7 users.

The opening of proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation; it only means that the Commission will treat the case as a matter of priority. Here to read more.

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