Microsoft fined $731 million for Internet Explorer

The European Commission issued a notice to technology giant Microsoft in October last year following the company’s failure to provide users with a choice of alternative browsers in the event they do not want Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as their default internet browser.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (image: AllthingsD)

Now the European Union’s antitrust regulators have acted on the notice and issued Microsoft with a $731 million fine for failing to give users an internet browser choice in Europe – which is the biggest fine ever issued to a company in the EU.

While the fine might seem like a massive amount, which is more than 11 percent of Microsoft’s expected net profit this quarter, the EU could have imposed a much bigger penalty, which would have reached 10% of Microsoft’s annual global revenue.

“We have apologized for it. We provided the Commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake – or anything similar – in the future,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Charles Whiddington, a partner at London-based law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, said the fine is a stark warning to the company and other firms who believe they can skirt regulation.

“The implications for companies going forward is that they must be more rigorous in complying with any agreement with the Commission, which does not take prisoners for infractions. Companies face severe sanctions for flouting EU rules, even accidentally,” he told Reuters.

In terms of Microsoft’s financials, it has $68 billion in cash reserves and holds $61 billion of that outside the United States.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor